Saturday, November 3, 2012

The gap between available legal jobs, the number of law grads and what, if anything, schools can do about it.

One suggestion is that, though curricular reform certainly doesn't create jobs where none exist,  law schools should "hyper-specialize" by teaching students very specific legal skills like discovery, regulatory compliance work, and litigation support skills so that those graduates will be more competitive compared to ones from schools that don't adapt. From a recent Washington Post story called Will law school students have jobs after they graduate?:

In 2011, more than 44,000 students graduated from the 200-odd U.S. law schools accredited by the American Bar Association. Nine months after graduation, only a bit more than half had found full-time jobs as lawyers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 73,600 new lawyer jobs from 2010 to 2020. But just three years into that decade, about 132,757 new lawyers have hit the job market.

While not every new JD seeks employment as a lawyer, it is safe to say that planning to work as an attorney is not rare among law students. But perhaps it should be. Data from the National Association of Legal Career Professionals indicate that since 2010, about 75,000 new law grads have found full-time jobs as lawyers.

So, in theory, all of the BLS-forecasted job openings through 2020 have already been filled, and 59,157 new lawyers are still looking for “real” law jobs.

Yes, of course some of the JD graduates this year and in the years to come will find high-paying, partner-track jobs at big firms and elsewhere. But the scale of the imbalance over a decade gives some indication of just how tough it is — and will be — as armies of newly minted JDs rise every year. By 2020, about 300,000 additional grads will join those 59,157 in a hunt for jobs that, statistically, are not to be found.

. . . .

Law students can borrow today — often with federally guaranteed loans — the full cost of tuition and expenses, and worry later about repaying what could total $237,000 for a UC-Irvine-level education.

For years, the return on investment made sense, as a law degree from a respected but not stellar school seemed to promise a long, fairly lucrative career, with more modest loans paid off in a 10-year span. But things changed as tuitions rose sharply and employment and compensation lagged. Federal tuition-repayment plans adjusted for low-earning lawyers now stretch to 25 years. If the loan is not paid off at the 25-year mark, the balance is forgiven, and the taxpayers eat the loss.

“I’m not sure how well-thought-out a lot of decisions [to invest in law school] are, in all candor,” says Mark Medice, national program director for Peer Monitor, a Thomson Reuters unit that tracks hiring and compensation data at large law firms, which traditionally have offered the highest-paying jobs to new lawyers. The market for new lawyers is so weak, says Medice, who himself has a JD and an MBA, that the return on investment is questionable for those at all but the most elite law schools. “If you have to pay $100,000 to do it, is it worth it?” he wonders. “Arguably, no.”

Besides, most law schools offer such a broad overview that legal education is “generic” and lacks utility, Medice continues. While most law schools now claim some sort of clinical or practical training, the broader trends may demand more fundamental reform.

Perhaps the structure of the entire system needs to change, with number of JDs graduating each year declining drastically. Medice envisions a new model, built around year-long, hyper-specific skills — such as discovery, regulatory matters and litigation support — that would quickly and relatively cheaply train students for the kinds of legal jobs that are available.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

November 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Daylight Savings Time ends tonight, don't forget to "fall back"

More specifically, set your clocks back one hour at 2:00 a.m. (in your local time zone) on Sunday morning, November 3 (except in Arizona and Hawaii).

(jbl).

November 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Race, Ethnicity, and Gender at 4,438 Institutions

The Chronicle of Higher Education offers us a statistical breakdown of students based on numbers compiled by the Department of Education (Fall 2010). A chart categorizes the students at each institution into these eleven classifications: Female, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, Pacific Islander, Race Unknown, Two or More Races, Nonresident Foreign, and Total Minority.

(ljs)

November 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Materials now online from U. Missouri symposium on "Overcoming Barriers in Preparing Law Students for Real-World Practice"

On October 19, U. Missouri hosted a symposium on the future of legal education featuring several key speakers including Lisa Kloppenberg, Clark Cunningham, Barbara Glesner Fines, David Moss, Hon. Solomon Oliver, John Phillips, and Judith Welsh Wegner.  More information is available from the school's website here.

We've learned that the program was a rousing success and symposium papers as well as the speakers' PowerPoints have now been posted online. They include the following:

The following papers and powerpoint presentations were prepared for the University of Missouri School of Law Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution Symposium, "Overcoming Barriers in Preparing Law Students for Real-World Practice," taking place on October 19, 2012. The papers and powerpoints are interim drafts. Please do not cite or quote them without the authors' consent.

You can also check out some videotaped presentations from the weekend below or by clicking here.

What Law Firms and Clients Need from Lawyers
Clark D. Cunningham, Hon. Solomon Oliver Jr., John R. Phillips
Assessing Reforms in Legal Education: What Has and Hasn't Worked Well
Judith Welch Wegner, David M. Moss, Barbara Glesner Fines

(jbl).

November 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Persuasive Writing: The Perils of the Blue Pen

When I teach persuasive writing, I caution my students against overwriting—going “over the top”—and underwriting—writing in too neutral a manner. November 1 gave us an excellent example of overwriting: George Wills’ column in the Washington Post. Here is the introductory paragraph

Energetic in body but indolent in mind, Barack Obama in his frenetic campaigning for a second term is promising to replicate his first term, although simply apologizing would be appropriate. His long campaign’s bilious tone — scurrilities about Mitt Romney as a monster of, at best, callous indifference; adolescent japes about “Romnesia” — is discordant coming from someone who has favorably compared his achievements to those of “any president” since Lincoln, with the “possible” exceptions of Lincoln, LBJ and FDR. Obama’s oceanic self-esteem — no deficit there — may explain why he seems to smolder with resentment that he must actually ask for a second term.

I doubt that this style appealed to anyone but inveterate Obama haters .Just look at all the excessive adjectives and fancy words. (When is the last time that you encountered the word “jape”? Bill Buckley could entertain us with the fancy patter, but George Will is no Buckley).

For a more persuasive middle way, compare Joshua Green’s November 1 column in Bloomberg Businessweek. He works with facts and a clean style to great effect.

Again, for the record, my point here is about writing style and has nothing to do with the merits of the respective candidates.

(ljs)

November 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Five Reasons Why Teaching Is Still Great

From  Teachermagazine.org. Written for K-12 teachers, but the reasons for teaching apply to us as well.

1) Countless Small Wins I'm hard-pressed to think of another profession with the potential to have so many small victories and breakthroughs every day.

2) You Can Focus Your Efforts

3) It's Not a Desk Job

4) I’m Encouraged to Play With Technology

        5) There Are No Limits to Professional Growth and Exploration

(ljs)

November 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Can We Train Our Brains to Function Better?

Maybe.  The New York Times has an article today entitled The Brain Trainers: A New Kind of Tutoring Aims to Make Students Smarter, which concerns several franchises that have recently opened up, which claim to improve cognitive skills for adults, children, and those with learning disabilities.  "On this Wednesday evening at the Upper Montclair, N.J., outlet of LearningRx, a chain of 83 “brain training” franchises across the United States, the goal is to improve cognitive skills. . . .  Unlike traditional tutoring services that seek to help students master a subject, brain training purports to enhance comprehension and the ability to analyze and mentally manipulate concepts, images, sounds and instructions. In a word, it seeks to make students smarter."

The article continues: "'We measure every student pre- and post-training with a version of the Woodcock-Johnson general intelligence test,' said Ken Gibson, who began franchising LearningRx centers in 2003, and has data on more than 30,000 of the nearly 50,000 students who have been trained. The average gain on I.Q. is 15 points after 24 weeks of training, and 20 points in less than 32 weeks.'  The three other large cognitive training services — Lumosity, Cogmed and Posit Science — dance around the question of whether they truly raise I.Q. but do assert that they improve cognitive performance."  "Those results are achieved, the companies say, by repurposing cognitive tasks initially developed by psychologists as tests of mental abilities. With technical names like the antisaccade, the N-back and the complex working memory span task, the exercises are dressed up as games that become increasingly difficult as students gain mastery."

Others are skeptical: "Whether the results last beyond the blush of training — indeed, whether I.Q. can truly be bolstered in a meaningful way — are questions on which serious scientists still disagree. Studies have been published in recent years finding that intelligence can be improved through training, but not enough of them are of sufficient scientific quality to convince everyone in the field." Similarly, "The catch, however, is that Dr. Detterman believes that cognitive training only makes people better at taking tests, without improving their underlying intelligence. Dr. Detterman said of brain training, 'It’s probably not harmful. But I would tell parents: Save your money. Look at the studies the commercial services have done to support their results. You’ll find very poorly done studies, with no control groups and all kinds of problems.'"

As those who read this blog know, for the past few years, I have been studying the latest research in education for application to legal education.  (here and I also have recently finished a self-training textbook for students and lawyers on how to improve their legal reasoning skills, which will be published by ABA Publishing next year.)  These studies demonstrate that we have not been using the best methods of teaching our students in general and in law school.  In particular, students need to become active learners, by immediately applying the doctrine they have learned to problem solving.

I do not know how much success these commercial franchises are having in improving cognitive skills.  I do think they are probably doing some good.  The article mentions that some of the exercises they use help students focus attention.  If true, this certainly helps learning.  Studies have shown that attention is very important in short-term memory efficiency.

I question whether the methods employed by these franchises, using test taking techniques and games to improve cognition, is the best approach.  The question is whether the skills obtained there apply to other areas, such as the law.  This depends on domain transference--taking a skill from one domain and using it within another domain (e.g., using techniques of literary analysis to analyze statues).  It is probable that skills transfer more easily from one domain to another when the domains are similar.  For law students, I think the best thing is to learn reasoning skills within the legal domains and domain transfer skills to apply them to another legal domain (e.g., taking skills learned in property and applying them to a wills class).

In any event, the article is fascinating, and I welcome all reasonable attempts to improve human learning.

(Scott Fruehwald)

November 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

How to make the transition from judicial clerk to law firm associate

From the Lawyerist blog:

Think like an advocate, not a clerk

When I first arrived at my law firm “think like an advocate, not a clerk,” was a constant mantra. People were repeating it to former clerks, but I wasn’t quite sure what they meant. Gradually the phrase came to mean certain things like:

  • There is no “right” answer. When clerking, I had a strong desire to identify the “right” law. In practice, however, you get to synthesize the cases as an advocate and marshal the arguments for your position. Practicing lawyers are particularly wary that clerks don’t get this distinction.
  • Writing is more effective when you don’t put everything in a string cite. As a clerk, researching case law, string cites were a frequent friend. In practice, the reaction was immediate—take the quote out of the parentheses and put it in the prose.

Learn to work for multiple partners instead of one judge

I’ll badly paraphrase Andre the Giant from the Princess Bride: you use different moves when working with half a dozen people than when you only have to be worried about one. By the time your clerkship concludes, you’ve learned how to work well with one person. You know his or her research preferences, scheduling preferences, and working hours. This is no easy task. When you arrive at a law firm, however, you suddenly find yourself working for multiple individuals each with distinct writing preferences, scheduling requirements, and working hours.

I found organization was key. When Joe tells you that he prefers sans serif fonts and Sally mentions that she likes two spaces after a period, write it down. Because it’s completely embarrassing when Joe has to mention (very nicely but for a second time) that, he’s not sure if he mentioned it, but he prefers sans serif fonts. Personally, I prefer the post-it note on the screen approach (one sticky note for each person that you’re working for) but any method that will keep key preferences in the forefront of one’s mind will work.

Get exposure to what you don’t know

I clerked in federal district court. When I started practice I felt fairly comfortable when asked to do anything in federal district court. State court or any appellate court? Panic time. Your firm, however, may have some great resources, like the people who clerked in those courts. When it’s time for a first filing in an unfamiliar court, it may be worth a spin by their office just to get their take on the whole thing. Finally, there’s nothing like exposure to cure the fear of the unknown. Ask if you can watch someone else in state court or attend a discovery conference. The first few months of practice, when things are still ramping up, are the perfect time to watch and learn.

(jbl).

November 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The reading habits of today's youth

A new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project finds that despite the pervasiveness of electronic social media in young peoples' lives, the vast majority still read print books for pleasure while six out of ten are visiting public libraries.

Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits

Summary of findings

More than eight in ten Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year, and six in ten used their local public library. At the youngest end of the spectrum, high schoolers in their late teens (ages 16-17) and college-aged young adults (ages 18-24) are especially likely to have read a book or used the library in the past 12 months. And although their library usage patterns may often be influenced by the requirements of school assignments, their interest in the possibilities of mobile technology may also point the way toward opportunities of further engagement with libraries later in life.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has taken a special look at readers between the ages of 16 and 29 because interest in them is especially high in the library world and the publishing world. This report examines how they encounter and consume books in different formats. It flows out of a larger effort to assess the reading habits of all Americans ages 16 and older as e-books change the reading landscape and the borrowing services of libraries.1

The main findings in this report, including all statistics and quantitative data, are from a nationally-representative phone survey of 2,986 people ages 16 and older that was administered from November 16-December 21, 2011. This report also contains the voices and insights of an online panel of library patrons ages 16-29 who borrow e-books, fielded in the spring of 2012.

Among the main findings:

  • 83% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year. Some 75% read a print book, 19% read an e-book, and 11% listened to an audiobook.
  • Among Americans who read e-books, those under age 30 are more likely to read their e-books on a cell phone (41%) or computer (55%) than on an e-book reader such as a Kindle (23%) or tablet (16%).
  • Overall, 47% of younger Americans read long-form e-content such as books, magazines or newspapers. E-content readers under age 30 are more likely than older e-content readers to say that they are reading more these days due to the availability of e-content (40% vs. 28%).
  • 60% of Americans under age 30 used the library in the past year. Some 46% used the library for research, 38% borrowed books (print books, audiobooks, or e-books), and 23% borrowed newspapers, magazines, or journals.
  • Many of these young readers do not know they can borrow an e-book from a library, and a majority of them express the wish they could do so on pre-loaded e-readers. Some 10% of the e-book readers in this group have borrowed an e-book from a library and, among those who have not borrowed an e-book, 52% said they were unaware they could do so. Some 58% of those under age 30 who do not currently borrow e-books from libraries say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to borrow pre-loaded e-readers if their library offered that service.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

November 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Harvard offers course to train students to work as in-house counsel

It's a new offering that began this fall called "Challenges of General Counsel" and is being co-taught by the General Counsel for Ernst & Young and the former GC of General Electric. From Corporate Counsel at Law.com:

Law Students Attend Harvard's First Class on GCs

It's a September evening at Harvard Law School. Twenty-two students are being asked to imagine that they are the general counsel of Hewlett-Packard, circa 2010. They've worked with the boss, CEO Mark Hurd, for years, and they consider him a friend, too. Then one day Hurd steps into their office with a letter from the high-profile attorney Gloria Allred, claiming that he has sexually harassed her client, a company contractor, and revealed secrets about the corporation.

The instructors want to know what the general counsel should say to Hurd.

Pooja Patel, a third-year, jumps into the hot seat: "I'd ask him if it's true."

"Is [Hurd's answer] a privileged statement?" asks Ben Heineman Jr., former general counsel of General Electric Company. "I believe so," she says. Heineman corrects her. "No," he says. It's not privileged as far as Hurd is concerned.

Sitting next to Heineman is his coinstructor, professor and vice-dean David Wilkins, who prods further. "Is this just a question of [Hurd's] personal ethics or morality?" he asks. "Why is this not solely a personal matter?"

Another student chimes in. "Because he was in a position as an employer." Others keep going: He was allegedly using company funds. Hurd is the face of the corporation. He was allegedly dispensing insider information. "So why isn't this privileged?" Wilkins asks.

Now Patel's got it. "Because there's a conflict between his interests and the company's interests." Bingo. The general counsel represents the company, and the privilege belongs to it, not the employees.

The exchange sets the stage for the challenging questions to follow, including how to inform the board about the allegations, what role the GC should play in the internal investigation, and whether it's worth ousting a CEO for lying about several thousand dollars in expenses—as Hurd eventually was.

Welcome to "Challenges of General Counsel," a new offering at Harvard this fall, taught by Wilkins, Heineman, and Ernst & Young general counsel Michael Solender. While Heineman and Solender originated the course at Yale Law School in spring 2011, this semester it's Harvard students who are wrestling with about a dozen case studies that range from global sourcing at IKEA to BP's handling of the Gulf oil spill. The guiding principle for each discussion is (to paraphrase the syllabus) not just "what is legal," but "what is right."

"This is really a course about how to be a lawyer when the law is only part of any question you're dealing with," Heineman explains in an interview after class is over.

(jbl).

October 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Happy Halloween - from the Legal Skills Prof Blog

Here's a Halloween treat of a different sort from those real-life movie monsters, The Cramps:

Enjoy!

(jbl).

October 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Business Blogs Worth Following

Our readers who are interested in commercial matters may be interested in this list of 15 blogs that the Levick Weekly (p. 17) lists as “Business Blogs Worth Watching.” The blogs fit under three headings: “Thought Leaders,” “Industry Blogs,” and “Business Related.” It’s nice to have a listing in which all the blogs are still active.

(ljs)

October 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do you grade papers better in hardcopy or online?

I grade my papers electronically but jeez louis it takes me much longer than the old fashion way. Though my comments are more detailed and definitely easier for students to read, I miss the efficiency of grading in hardcopy (in theory the ability to copy and paste comments from one paper to the next should save lots time but I wind up customizing my comments for each paper so it actually takes me a lot longer). And I miss being able to use diagrams, arrows and such to explain to students some of my suggested edits.  Apparently I'm not alone based on this columm from ProfHacker at Chronicle of Higher Ed in which the author defends hardcopy feedback as better than the electronic kind.  It's not because he's a Luddite either.

I have a confession to make: I hate responding to student essays through a computer screen.

Yes, I know I’ve advocated using text-expansion software to respond to student writing, Billie has taught us how to respond to student writing audio style, Jason has explained how tracking changes on the iPad might be useful when grading, Doug Ward has described grading with voice on the iPad, and I know that Erin (among others, probably) uses iAnnotate with her students’ essays (an iPad app that both Jason and Mark have covered).

Here’s the thing, though: I am much more comfortable (both ergonomically and psychologically) with a printed essay on the table in front of me and a pen in my hand. It’s much faster (for me), and it is much less taxing (for me). I realize that it might sound ridiculous to describe reading and responding to student essays as “taxing,” but here we are. When it comes to grading essays, I just haven’t gotten to the point where using some kind of digital interface feels as comfortable, as seamless, and as transparent to me as using a pen and paper.

What do you think?  I'm assuming the vast majority of profs comment electronically but do you find it as effective or efficient as the hardcopy kind? Let us know in the comments below.

(jbl).

October 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sobering Student Debt Statistics

In the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Congress

established an ombudsman for private student loans within the Consumer Financial

Protection Bureau. The ombudsman began accepting student loan complaints in March 2012. Here is the executive summary of its recent annual report:

Outstanding student loan debt is now over $1 trillion, with private student loans

accounting for more than $150 billion. There are at least $8 billion of private student

loans in default, representing more than 850,000 individual loans. Private student loans

are issued by banks and credit unions, state-affiliated and non-profit agencies, schools, and

other financial companies. Like in the mortgage market, creditors often employ third party servicers to collect payments from private student loan borrowers. Many of these

servicers are also active in the federal student loan market.

 

In less than seven months, the CFPB has handled approximately 2,900 private student

loan complaints. For complaints where companies report monetary relief, the median

amount of relief reported was $1,572. The vast majority of the complaints were related to

loan servicing and loan modification issues.

 

Eighty-seven percent of all student loan complaints were directed at just seven companies.

This is not surprising, given that the private student lending and servicing markets are

highly concentrated.

 

The complaints and input received by the CFPB resemble many of the same issues

experienced by mortgage borrowers, such as improper application of payments,

untimeliness in error resolution, and inability to contact appropriate personnel in times of

hardship. Many borrowers feel overburdened by paperwork and other requirements to

activate incentives marketed prior to loan origination.

 

Similar to the mortgage market, active-duty service members and their families sometimes

experience difficulty exercising their rights under the Service members Civil Relief Act.

 

Like mortgage borrowers, student loan borrowers face challenges when attempting to

refinance or modify their debt. Many borrowers are unable to take advantage of low

interest rates due to a lack of refinance options, while others have been unable to secure

modified payment plans during the difficult labor market environment.

(ljs)

 

 

October 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

U. Georgia seeking to hire tenure track director for medical-legal clinic

Here are the details:

University of Georgia Law School - Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic – Assistant Professor

The University of Georgia School of Law seeks a tenure-track assistant professor to serve as the director of a to-be-created Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) Clinic, beginning the 2013 – 2014 academic year.  Job expectations include both clinical work and the production of academic scholarship.  On the scholarship side, the director must be able to satisfy all the standards applicable to other members of the tenure-track faculty, including the production of first-rate scholarship published in major law reviews.  On the clinical side, the successful applicant will be responsible for establishing partnership(s) with medical providers in the community to house the new MLP Clinic.  The goal of the MLP Clinic is to provide legal services to underserved individuals receiving treatment from the medical provider.  Responsibilities include managing the partnership relationship, teaching the classroom component of the Clinic, and supervising student legal work in the Clinic.  Finally, the director will teach a related doctrinal course.  Applicants must possess a J.D. or equivalent law degree and must be a member of the Georgia Bar or willing to become a member as soon as practical following appointment.  Applications should include a cover letter, resume or CV, description of scholarly research agenda, existing scholarship and references.  The University of Georgia is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages candidates from diverse backgrounds to apply.

Contact:  Professor Erica Hashimoto

University of Georgia School of Law

Herty Drive

Athens, GA 30602

(706) 542-5098

hashimo@uga.edu

 (jbl).

October 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

To better prepare students, law schools need to offer specialty training

From the New York Times DealBook commenting on NYU's recent decision to revamp the third year curriculum.

The Shift Toward Law School Specialization

The twilight of the generalist law degree is here.

As Peter Lattman reported last week, New York University School of Law is retrofitting its third-year curriculum to allow for increased specialization. Options include advanced study in areas like tax or corporate law, working in Washington at a federal agency or foreign study in Buenos Aires, Paris or Shanghai.

While the study-abroad aspect of the program has received much of the attention, the heart of the proposal is an important shift toward specialization.

In the traditional model of legal education, schools offer a general professional degree in law. No majors or concentrations. Schools provide a strong foundation of legal analysis and grounding in the common law, on the assumption that law firms will teach new associates the specifics of what they need to practice law, whether that means drafting deal documents or taking a deposition.

In the emerging model, law students must add on a degree, certificate or other indication of readiness to engage in a particular practice area or industry. N.Y.U.’s strategy committee described this goal as providing “professional pathways that prepare students to operate in a world that demands increasing specialization.” (Full disclosure: I was a visiting professor of law at N.Y.U. in 2010.)

Law schools, like most established enterprises, change only when they have to. In this case, the ripples of change arising from the segmentation of the market for legal services have been felt by corporate clients, law firms and law schools.

Corporate clients are more savvy, sophisticated and cost-aware. Routine legal work is increasingly outsourced offshore, outsourced to contract attorneys or performed by professionals who do not have a Juris Doctor degree.

Law school graduates who fail to land one of the shrinking number jobs at big law firms find themselves moving down-market to small law firms for low pay, or competing with college graduates and M.B.A.’s for jobs in compliance, risk management or business development.

Law firms are struggling with the new normal of a segmented industry. The new economics of the profession are marked by increased lateral mobility among partners, increasing numbers of nonequity partners, increased client scrutiny of fees and a decrease in the routine legal work that used to support the pyramid model. As a result, it is harder for law firms to devote nonbillable time to training entry-level associates. Law graduates are expected to arrive knowing more than just how to “think like a lawyer.” The tricky part for law schools is trying to figure out what, exactly, they need to know.

In my view, law schools should play matchmaker, guiding students toward specialties that are likely to endure. Big firm attorneys in some practice areas will continue to have a comparative advantage over low-cost attorneys, in-house lawyers and other professionals. One area is bet-the-company litigation, where high stakes justify high fees. Another is mergers and acquisitions and securities work, where, in addition to negotiating and drafting documents, lawyers usually quarterback the deal to closing. A third area is any practice that demands highly specialized legal and regulatory knowledge, like bankruptcy, tax and financial regulation. The knowledge required is intrinsically legal and cannot be easily moved offshore or outsourced to nonlawyers or contract attorneys.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

 

October 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Important New Article on Self-Directed Learners

I believe that the most important skill we can give to our students is the ability to be self-directed and self-reflective learners.  (here)  Neil W. Hamilton, Verna Monson, and Jerome M. Organ have just posted an important new article on this topic entitled Encouraging Each Student's Personal Responsibility for Core Competencies Including Professionalism on SSRN.

Abstract: "The market for entry-level positions in law firms is changing as competitive market pressures drive a “new normal” for law firms, and law schools must respond to meet students’ educational needs in this “new normal” market. A high percentage of law firms are rethinking their business models and adopting proactive talent management strategies like competency models to respond to competitive market pressures. One core competency in these models that influences all the other competencies is an internalized commitment to self-development toward both excellence in all competencies and active initiative in exercising all of them. This paper focuses on how legal education can foster each student’s internalized commitment to self-development toward excellence and initiative."

An excerpt:

This essay focuses on the specific competencies of ‘commitment to career-long self development toward excellence in all competencies’ and ‘proactive initiative in exercising all competencies’ in Table 2. Law students and early-career lawyers must learn to internalize self development toward excellence and proactive initiative in developing these capacities and skills. In this new normal, students and early career lawyers must anticipate having several jobs over the course of their careers that may require development of new skills. Law schools must define clear learning outcomes to signal to students the importance of developing these competencies. This education assessment model requires law school faculties to:

1. Identify student educational needs (including the meta-cognitive capacities of self directed learning and self-regulation capacity);

2. Articulate student learning outcomes (educational objectives) that respond to student educational needs;

3. Plan and implement an educational program and curriculum that help students achieve the learning outcomes;

4. Identify instructional methods that integrate formative and summative assessments that are cost-effective, manageable, and meaningful; and

5. Evaluate the effectiveness of the educational program and curriculum."

A problem is that "In legal education, then, law students get acclimated to being ‘dependent’ learners rather than self-directed learners. Law professors like to be in ‘control’ of the classroom, dictating what gets learned and how it is learned, resulting in a social context in which students feel very little encouragement toward or ability to engage in self-directed learning toward all the competencies beyond those involved in immediate course work."

The solution to this problem is being explicit. "A student cannot own something without awareness that it is important. Law firms implementing competency models begin with an orientation for associates that explains the full model followed by reminders and training as needed at evaluations and transition stages as well as formal training to help lawyers understand the model. Similarly, day one of law school should begin with introducing the lawyer competency model, explaining its importance, and informing students it is each student’s personal responsibility to engage in activities inside and outside the classroom that develop self-directedness. . . . The presentation should make clear that the responsibility for development of these competencies does not reside with faculty or administrators, but with each student. This emphasis should foster the developmental growth of personal responsibility towards self-directedness."

Everyone in legal education needs to read this article!

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Boston College Appoints Faculty Director of Experiential Learning

From the Law School’s media release (excerpts):

Boston College Law School has announced the appointment of Clinical Professor and Law Fund Research Scholar Paul Tremblay to the newly created position of faculty director of experiential learning, a move that underscores and enhances the Law School's longstanding emphasis on real-world experience for law students.
Tremblay will be responsible for coordinating experiential learning throughout the curriculum to ensure that every student will have reasonable access to significant opportunities in this area, alongside the critical doctrinal and theoretical training which remains a hallmark of the BC Law School program.

With a director in place, the school intends to strengthen its established and nationally-known in-house clinics, such as its Legal Assistance Bureaua model for other programs across the country since 1968through which students and their advisors represent clients with a variety of legal problems, including domestic violence prevention, family law, landlord-tenant disputes, Social Security disability appeals. They also offer free legal services to small businesses, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and first-time home buyers through the Community Enterprise Clinic, which Tremblay founded in 2008.

"In this new role, I plan to advocate for more clinical opportunities for students and more externships, including international placements, through creative partnerships with private firms, public interest offices, and government agencies," he said, "as well as coordinate ongoing efforts to include more simulation and practicum components to our high quality, nationally-ranked classroom courses.”

(ljs)

October 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Rethinking legal research: preparing law students for using empirical data."

By Professor Steven B. Dow (Mich. St. School Crim. Justice) and available at 2011 Mich. St. L. Rev. 523-540. From the introduction:

Despite its limitations, the North Carolina Racial Justice Act constitutes an emphatic rejection by a state legislature of the U.S. Supreme Court's myopic view on the relevance of empirical data in death penalty cases, a view articulated by the Court in McCleskey v. Kemp. Looking at it from a broader perspective, however, this statute and a similar statute enacted in Kentucky over a decade ago are less of a departure from, than a manifestation of, the broader trend of judicial reliance on scientific and social scientific data in formal dispute resolution. This trend, which began in the last third of the nineteenth century, has dramatically accelerated over the last four decades, despite the Supreme Court's decision in McCleskey, to the point where many courts now routinely utilize such evidence in certain types of cases. This broad trend of judicial reliance on empirical data in formal dispute resolution is very important, and I genuinely appreciate and applaud the efforts of Michigan State University College of Law in hosting this Symposium. At the same time, I could not help but notice more than a bit of irony in the fact that this Symposium on law and empirical data is hosted by a law school. American legal education is unique among all the university graduate-level programs in the natural and social sciences, as well as business and medicine, in not requiring even a basic level of competency in empirical research methods. As this Symposium demonstrates, such training is imperative today and is increasing in importance. Without adequate training, lawyers will be ineffective both in taking advantage of this trend in the practice of law and in advancing this trend on behalf of their profession and society. In this Article, I will discuss the current state of law school training in empirical research methods and then suggest how the effectiveness of that training can be enhanced without undermining the training in the more traditional professionally mandated competencies such as doctrinal analysis, client counseling, and advocacy.

(jbl).

October 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why every law student needs a mentor

From the always informative Lawyerist blog:

Learn things you won’t learn in law school

Law school teaches you lots of great things. Mostly, it teaches you how to think, talk, and act like a lawyer. Although law school curriculums are starting to include more practical skill classes (which I recommend), the majority of classes are substantive, not skills-based.

That’s why having a mentor is so important. Instead of doing a mock deposition with your classmates, you can watch a practicing attorney take or defend one. Even better, you can pick their brain before and after to see how they prepare and how they thought it went.

A good mentor should give tell you how to succeed in law school, how to move past bad law school grades, and how to make the most of your law school experience. Perhaps most importantly, they will pass on little bits of knowledge that can’t be described or categorized—but they are pieces of wisdom you will rely on for your entire career.

Learn how things (don’t) work

Not only is it important to watch lawyers do things the right way, it’s perhaps more valuable to watch them do it the wrong way. I’m not suggesting you find yourself a terrible mentor, and I’m not suggesting that most attorneys are incompetent.

I am suggesting, however, that even the best attorneys second-guess themselves and wish they could do ____ differently during a case. Watching them make those decisions and then analyze what went right (and wrong) is invaluable. One, you will benefit from their mistake and will hopefully not make the same decision when you are an attorney. Two, you will learn why it’s called the practice of law, not the perfection of law.

When you realize that even the best attorneys make mistakes, that should make you even more wary and protect against making those same mistakes.

If you want to know how finding a mentor might lead you to a good job with one of her colleagues, click here.

(jbl).

October 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)