Saturday, May 11, 2013

Many College Presidents Are Doubtful About MOOCs.

Discussion about MOOCs—Massive Open Online Courses—pervades the education media. I strongly suspect that MOOCs are about to explode in the legal education world. Yet a recent Gallup survey indicates that college presidents have doubts about this educational development (excerpts):

But it turns out that -- when asked privately -- most presidents don't seem sure at all that MOOCs are going to transform student learning, or reduce costs to students -- two of the claims made by MOOC enthusiasts and an increasing number of politicians and pundits.

. . .

On MOOCs, only small minorities of presidents strongly believe that they will improve the learning of all students (3 percent), solve colleges' financial challenges (2 percent) or cut what students spend on higher education (8 percent). Much larger shares of presidents strongly disagree with those statements. Presidents were more likely to see MOOCs promoting creative pedagogies or getting the best teachers in front of more students, but even on those topics, many presidents appear doubtful.

You can read more here.


May 11, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 10, 2013

"The Paradox of Access to Civil Justice: The 'Glut' of New Lawyers and the Persistence of Unmet Need"

This article is by Professor Emily Spieler (Northeastern) and can be found at 44 U. Tol. L. Rev. 365 (2013) and here on SSRN.  From the abstract:

This article, written for a collection of essays by law school deans, reviews the existing data on unmet needs for legal services for both poor and moderate-income people, the distribution of lawyers in the U.S., and current efforts to fill the needs. It then explores possible roles for law schools and argues that access to civil justice and economic survival for law school graduates are intertwined. We know that the vast majority of lawyers in the U.S. work in small community practices where individual and family legal needs are most often addressed. At the same time, there appears to be a market failure between the growing supply of lawyers and the unmet need for legal services in these communities. Current efforts in law schools to expand experiential education, encourage pro bono activities and develop incubators are important, but law schools also need to focus on the costs of legal education, reforming curriculum, engaging fully in access to justice discussions, addressing gaps in our knowledge regarding legal practice and unmet needs, and assisting in developing scalable models to expand access to justice. We might then be able to develop solutions that simultaneously expand the availability of legal services and help to create meaningful work for our graduates.


May 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Lawyers Must Disclose Their Pro Bono Hours and Contributions

From the New York Law Journal:

New York lawyers must disclose on their biennial registration forms how many pro bono hours they provided and the amount of financial contributions they made to pro bono programs during the previous two years.

The new reporting requirements of Part 118 and Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct were approved by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and the presiding justices of the Appellate Division's four departments on April 23 and went into effect yesterday (See Announcement).

Lippman's Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services recommended increasing the voluntary pro bono goal for lawyers in the state to 50 hours a year from 20 (NYLJ, Dec. 7, 2012). That proposal was also implemented yesterday.

Sounds like the Court is getting serious. Will other jurisdictions follow suit?


May 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Have you heard about the ReInvent Law Lab?

The ABA Journal Blog's "New Normal" column today features a profile of two Michigan State law profs who have founded something called the ReInvent Law Laboratory which seems to be part think-tank, part law school curriculum reform initiative and part CLE.  What ties these projects together is the common goal of helping both law students and practitioners prepare for the dramatic changes presently overtaking the legal profession.  One of the more intriguing ideas floated by the ReInvent Law Lab profs is the development of a law school course that teaches students entrepreneurial skills so they can think of innovative ways to better deliver legal services.  Here's a link to the ReInvent blog where you can sign up for a newsletter and here's an excerpt from the ABA post that helps explain what it's all about.

Greetings from ReInvent Law, our law laboratory devoted to technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship at Michigan State University College of Law. You read that right. We are law professors with a laboratory where we teach technology, analytics, innovation, and entrepreneurship in legal services. We are law professors devoted to training lawyers for the law jobs of the 21st century. And yes, math will be on the exam. This is the New Normal in legal education.

. . . .

Entrepreneurship is one cross-cutting and core component that is often missing in legal education. At most institutions, {law + entrepreneurship} involves law students advising would-be entrepreneurs. While we support such efforts, this conception largely misses significant, emerging opportunities that are being created in the legal market. To this end, we are interested in training lawyers to be entrepreneurs, not merely to advise them. This training is useful for a variety of future pursuits, whether to better understand clients or to embark on one’s own entrepreneurial endeavor. Along with traditional legal training, entrepreneurship pedagogy also can help inspire students to curate new markets for legal services and thereby help fill the vast access-to-justice gap. Many appropriately bemoan the reality that millions in this country go without needed legal representation, but few actually craft scalable solutions to help tackle the problem. Clinics are simply not sufficient. The answer is better regulatory and business models with technology and analytics as core components.

Continue reading here.


May 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Six Skills Every Law Student Needs to Master

From The Careerist.  A very good column. Here are the six skills:

1. Improve your writing.

2. Talk like an adult.

3. Learn to read a financial statement.

4. Hang out with B-School students.

5. Always network in person.

6. Think like a creative problem solver and a businessperson.


May 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Professor Richard Epstein on Legal Education: A Reply

A few days ago, one of my co-bloggers had a post on Professor Richard Epstein’s review of Stephen Harper’s, The Lawyer’s Bubble. In this post, I will comment on Professor Epstein’s remarks on legal education reform.

He argues, "If 50 years ago students could make good use of three years of a law-school education, they certainly can do so in today's vastly more complicated world." If we adopted this attitude to other areas, we would not be using computers or we would still be traveling by horse and buggy. As Professor Epstein acknowledges, the world is more complicated today. Not only has technology created a different world from 50 years ago, we have a much more diverse student body in our law schools. Most importantly, our knowledge of the brain and learning has changed radically in recent years. As one prominent education scholar has noted, "We have learned more about how the mind works in the last twenty-five years than we did in the previous twenty-five hundred." (Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don’t Students Like School 1 (2009)).

Professor Epstein elaborates: "Nonetheless, Mr. Harper charges that academics like me, who are obsessed with high theory, cause ‘institutional inertia’ in law schools and prevent the sort of evolution necessary to gear students up for the 21st-century legal market. The author's recipe for change includes large doses of hands-on instruction on business relations and practice skills. But law schools can't just be "practical training" centers, as Mr. Harper would have them; they must make sure that their students grasp the fundamentals of legal theory and doctrine. Future lawyers must also be capable of connecting law with collateral disciplines ranging from corporate finance to game theory to cognitive psychology."

I agree with Professor Epstein that law graduates must grasp the fundamentals of legal theory and doctrine. However, in attacking "practical training," he fails to understand what most of us in the legal education reform movement are arguing. We want to bring the learning from cognitive psychological studies of education into legal education to make the teaching of law more effective and deeper.

First, as I mentioned in a post earlier this week, knowledge is organized in long-term memory the way we learn it, and it is difficult for one to retrieve long-term knowledge when it is needed for a different purpose. As a group of education scholars have declared, "students performed better when their knowledge organization matched the requirements of the task, and they performed worse when it mismatched." (Susan Ambrose, How Learning Works 48 (2010)). Consequently, because law schools mainly teach students to be appellate lawyers and legal philosophers, lawyers have trouble retrieving and transferring their legal knowledge when they need it for a different task, such as writing a client letter, drafting a contract, or writing interrogatories.

Second, the new approaches to teaching based on the neurobiology of learning reinforces law students’ abilities to remember, retrieve, and manipulate knowledge. Legal education research has shown that students remember things better when they apply their knowledge. This is because when one manipulates knowledge, the neurons in long-term memory where the knowledge is stored are fired strengthening the neurons. In addition, more connections are created between the neurons (synapses) so there are additional ways for short-term memory to retrieve the knowledge.

For example, the best way to learn the doctrine and theory of defamation in a torts class is to go over the material, then after the students understand the principles, have them apply those principles to problems. Every doctrinal class should have a significant problem-solving element so that the students will have a deeper undrstanding of the concepts.

Similarly, classes that are labeled "skills classes" bring about deeper learning of concepts. Skills teachers do not teach skills in a vacuum. Skills must be taught in a knowledge domain, such as civil procedure or fair use. I have used personal jurisdiction problems several times in my legal writing classes. After they were done with the assignment, my students frequently told me that they understood personal jurisdiction much better than they did other civil procedure concepts that they learned in their doctrinal class.

Other skills classes also strengthen and deepen doctrinal knowledge. Learning to write interrogatories involves much more than being able to follow the format. To write effective interrogatories, one must be able to understand doctrine well enough to be able to elicit the answers (factual knowledge) necessary to win a case. I would wager that those who can write effective interrogatories have deeper knowledge of a field than those who can just do well on an exam on that field.

There is no reason to misunderstand what the legal education reformers are saying. For example, Michael Hunter Schwartz has written a series of articles and books on legal education and how to apply the new principles in law school classes. (E.g., Michael Hunter Schwartz, Sophie Sparrow, and Gerald Hess, Teaching Law by Design (2009)). I have posted drafts of two articles on SSRN; Teaching Law Students How to Become Metacognitive Thinkers and How to Become an Expert Law Teacher by Understanding the Neurobiology of Learning. Also the theory in this post comes mainly from three easily-readable books on education: Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don’t Students Like School (2009); Susan Ambrose, How Learning Works (2010) and Duane F. Shell et. al., The Unified Learning Model (2010).

Richard, as you may remember, a couple of years ago, we had an e-mail exchange where we both agreed that recent learning in cognitive psychology could illuminate how we understand legal theory and jurisprudence. I believe that the same applies to legal education.

(Scott Fruehwald)

May 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Time magazine reviews "The Lawyer Bubble"

A few days ago we posted an excerpt of a fairly harsh review of Steven Harper's new book The Lawyer Bubble courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.  Harper, as you may remember, blogs at The Belly of the Beast.  Today comes a more favorable review via Adam Cohen at Time magazine

Is There a Lawyer Bubble?

A new book by a former litigator at Kirkland & Ellis, one of the nation’s largest law firms, has delivered a frisson to the already rattled legal profession. In The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis, Steven J. Harper argues that legal jobs are disappearing not because of short-term economic fluctuations but because of powerful long-term trends. 

. . . .

Harper begins his case with a basic and troubling set of facts: roughly 45,000 law students graduate each year with an average of more than $100,000 in debt — and only about half of them will find long-term, full-time jobs that require a legal degree. Even for graduates who get law jobs, he argues, the legal world is changing fast. Law firms that once prized professionalism and collegiality, he says, are increasingly operating like typical bean-counting businesses. And many law graduates are finding work only as “contract attorneys,” which often means doing document-review drudgery for low pay.

The decline in the market for lawyers is being driven by an array of forces. For some time now, but particularly since the economic downturn of 2008, corporate clients have been less willing to sign off on hefty legal bills. They have increasingly been balking at the top hourly rates of $1,000 that some partners charge — and at costly expenses, ranging from air travel to sushi dinners to copying charges.

And as a result of globalization, an increasing share of American legal work — particularly more by-the-numbers assignments, like document review — is being shipped overseas. Lawyers in India and other lower-wage markets are willing to do the work for a fraction of what American law firms would charge. Taking away even more of this work: newly sophisticated legal software that can do “document review” and other tasks for which lawyers were once needed.

. . . .

Harper’s big-picture argument is undoubtedly correct, and it is a real cause for concern. Bar associations and legal academics have begun talking about how the profession should adapt — discussions that are long overdue. The biggest problem with The Lawyer Bubble is not the warning it is sounding but its title; unlike tulips and other speculative bubbles in the past, lawyers will always be a necessity not a fad. But then, The Very, Very Challenging Job Market for Lawyers doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Continue reading Mr. Cohen's review here.


May 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

AALS Director to Become Dean at Southwestern

Susan Westerberg Prager, a leading figure in legal education who once served as dean of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, will assume the top administrative position at Southwestern Law School next fall.

Prager since 2008 has been the executive director of the Association of American Law Schools, the largest legal education organization in the country. She served as dean at UCLA, her alma mater, from 1982 to 1998, making her the school's longest-serving dean.

You can read more here.


May 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

An Accurate Summary of 1L Classes

An Accurate Summary of 1L Classes

Humorous, I hope. Maybe the bar review version. Please click here. (contains a few vulgar words)


May 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Legal sector adds more than 2,000 jobs in April

From the AmLaw Daily:

The legal sector added 2,100 new positions in April to mark its second straight month of job growth, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The latest increase comes on the heels of initial BLS reports that showed the industry adding 2,000 jobs in March. However, Friday's BLS report revised that figure upward to 3,500 legal services jobs added for the month. The back-to-back gains managed to offset a rough early start to the year that saw 2,400 legal jobs lost in January and another 500 lost in February.

The recent gains have pushed the total number of professionals employed in the legal industry to 1.13 million—10,000 more than in April 2012 and the highest number since the same month four years ago. Overall, though, there are currently some 50,000 fewer people employed in the legal industry than there were at its peak in May 2007.


May 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Former PA Supreme Court Justice is Sentenced

Disgraced former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice Joan Orie Melvin was sentenced today to house arrest followed by probation and ordered to send handwritten apologies on photographs of herself to every judge in the Commonwealth.

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus sentenced Orie Melvin to three years' house arrest with two years' probation to follow.

A jury found Orie Melvin and her sister Janine Orie guilty on Feb. 21 of using judicial staff, as well as the staffers of another sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, to work on the campaigns in 2003 and 2009 for the Pennsylvania high court.

Joan Orie Melvin, former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, was sentenced today to house arrest followed by probation and ordered to send apologies to every judge in the Commonwealth. (Video by Nate Guidry; reporting by Paula Reed Ward; 5/7/2013)

Orie Melvin, 56, was found guilty on six of seven counts against her, including conspiracy, theft of services and misapplication of government funds. She resigned from the Supreme Court in March.

She must serve in a soup kitchen three times a week and can otherwise only leave her house for church.

Judge Nauhaus also ordered that an official county photographer take a photograph of Orie Melvin, on copies of which she must apologize to each of Pennsylvania's judges. She must pay for the cost. He ordered a deputy to handcuff her and the photo was taken of her in handcuffs.

Her sentence also includes $55,000 in fines, a prohibition on using the title "justice" during her term and handwriting apologies to former members of her campaign staff and that of her sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, whom she made engage in illegal work.

You can read more here.



May 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

LSAT-Takers with Disabilities Win Round in California

A California civil rights agency can go forward with group claims that the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) illegally discriminates against LSAT-takers with disabilities, a federal judge has held.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing doesn’t need to follow the more complicated procedure for class action certification because it’s a governmental agency “authorized to act in the public’s interest to obtain broad relief.”

The department sued on behalf of 17 California residents who allegedly were denied reasonable accommodation in taking the LSAT between 2009 and 2012 and on behalf of “all disabled individuals in the state of California who requested a reasonable accommodation” during the same period.

You can read more here at the Diverse blog.


May 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Which Lawyers Are the Unhappiest?

From the ALI-CLE blog:

According to a survey conducted last year by online job site, associate attorneys are unhappier in their jobs than anyone else, excluding any executive level positions. 65,000 employees completed a survey (with at least 50 surveys completed for each job title), rating ten factors that affect workplace happiness, such as compensation and daily tasks.  Despite being well compensated with an average salary of $111,000, the survey says that associates did not like working in an environment focused on the billable hour, and where it can take years to become a partner and reap the rewards of partnership-level work and pay.

I guess money doesn't always buy happiness.


May 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Though law school application have plummeted, the legal profession itself will thrive

That's the message from Professor Richard Epstein (NYU) in this Wall Street Journal published book review of Steven Harper's The Lawyer's Bubble.  Harper is also the author of the great blog The Belly of the Beast which reports on the changes undertaking the profession and the law school "crisis." In his book review, Professor Epstein challenges Harper's assertion that the legal profession, and BigLaw in particular, is in trouble.  "A bubble may have burst, but not for the high end of the profession or for the thousands of attorneys working in specialized niches" says Professor Epstein.

And when it comes to legal education, Professor Epstein also takes issue with Harper's assertion that the old guard professoriate, wedded to the primacy of scholarship and traditional law school pedagogy, is responsible for a disconnect between what employers want and what law schools are producing.  To the contrary, argues Epstein, employers want law schools to produce smart people, not graduates who possess dubious technical skills yet lack depth of understanding. 

[Harper's] recipe for change includes large doses of hands-on instruction on business relations and practice skills. But law schools can't just be "practical training" centers, as Mr. Harper would have them; they must make sure that their students grasp the fundamentals of legal theory and doctrine. Future lawyers must also be capable of connecting law with collateral disciplines ranging from corporate finance to game theory to cognitive psychology.

That is what I teach, and that is also what firms want when they hire me to work on complex legal problems. The best lawyers I know don't want law schools to turn out graduates with less knowledge and more gimmicks; they want better-educated lawyers who can hit the ground running. If 50 years ago students could make good use of three years of a law-school education, they certainly can do so in today's vastly more complicated world.

You can read Professor Epstein's full book review of The Lawyer Bubble here.


May 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyers & Psychiatrists Analyze "The Walking Dead" (Zombies)

Lawyers tend to see the world through legal eyes, and psychiatrists likewise see the world through the eyes of their profession. Now we learn the answers to legal and medical questions posed by the TV series “The Walking Dead.” Over at Wired, we learn the answers (Warning: below are some spoilers for season 3. Also, even some of the questions below are a bit gruesome):

Do the Undead Have Legal Responsibilities?

Are Mercy Killings Legal During the Zombie Apocalypse?

Was It Illegal for Rick to Help Andrea Commit Suicide?

Was It Legal for Rick to Chop Off Hershel’s Leg?

How Does the Zombie Apocalypse Affect Moral Reasoning?

What Makes the Governor a Psychopath–But Not Rick?

Why Do the People of Woodbury Follow the Governor?


May 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Biggest Problem in Legal Education: The Mismatch Between How Law Schools Teach Their Students and What Lawyers Do In Practice

Legal education reformers often criticize traditional legal education because it prepares attorneys to be appellate lawyers and legal philosophers rather than practitioners. It is indisputable that most law school classes focus on appellate practice and that advanced classes (seminars) mainly concern philosophy and theory. Even first-year legal writing classes focus on appellate practice in the second semester. The question then is whether this type of preparation is adequate for the future lawyers of American, or do law schools need to take a different approach to legal education? Is there any educational research that helps us answer this question?

Education research can help us answer these questions. According to one education scholar, "We have learned more about how the mind works in the last twenty-five years than we did in the previous twenty-five hundred." (Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don’t Students Like School 1 (2009)).

Long-term memory is one of the key parts of learning and thinking. Students need to develop ways to retain knowledge in their long-term memories, and they need to develop ways to easily retrieve knowledge from their long-term memories for use in their short-term memories where thinking is done. A single bit of knowledge is stored in a neuron in long-term memory. Complex knowledge is stored in chunks–a single entity, which is an interconnected cluster of neurons. From a neurobiological viewpoint, the neurons are connected by synapses, the process by which the firing neuron sends a chemical signal called a neurotransmitter across the synaptic gap to other neurons. When enough chunks are interconnected, they can provide knowledge organization (or schemas) for an entire domain (such as physics or contracts).

Organization in long-term memory is in relation to how the material is learned, including the context and function of the way the material is being learned. For example, a student could organize a series of cases on due process and personal jurisdiction by the state involved, by whether the court found jurisdiction or not, or by the reasons for finding or not finding jurisdiction. Which of these organizational techniques would usually aid learning best with a civil procedure question? Superficial knowledge organizations, like organizing personal jurisdiction cases by the state involved, do not lead to effective learning because retrieval of that information is difficult in the context in which it is needed. (Organizing cases by state does not help retrieve the information needed when the context is how courts found or did not find personal jurisdiction, as would be necessary in writing a brief.)

Experts organize by recognizing the deep patterns in the knowledge. For example, a law expert would organize a series of cases by the types of reasoning a court used, then organize on a sublevel by the similarities and the differences among the cases. Therefore, professors should teach their students how to recognize deep organizing patterns in material.

Another difference between expert and novice knowledge organization is the number and quality of connections between bits of knowledge. Novices usually have few connections among neurons. Consequently, they often do not make connections among related pieces of knowledge. Experts have many more connections. A professor should show their students to view knowledge from multiple angles in order to create more connections. Showing how to organize knowledge into different organizations also helps students create connections. For example, a professor could have his students organize a set of cases by the doctrinal principle behind the cases, then by the theoretical principle behind the cases.

In sum, "students performed better when their knowledge organization matched the requirements of the task, and they performed worse when it mismatched." (Ambrose at 48) (The information in the four paragraphs above is from Susan Ambrose, How Learning Works 40-65 (2010) and Duane F. Shell et. al., The Unified Learning Model 1-17 (2010).)

Based on the above, one should be able to see the problem in legal education. Legal education mainly teaches students to be appellate lawyers and legal philosophers. The typical lawyer is not an appellate lawyer or a philosopher. Thus, law schools do not teach their students in a way that is best for the knowledge retrieval they will need as practicing attorneys. For example, students learn contract principles in law school, but the typical first-year contracts class does not teach students how to use this knowledge to draft a contract. When a lawyer starts to draft contracts in practice, she will be lost because of the way she has contract law stored in her long-term memory. In other words, the way that contract law is stored in a law student’s long-term memory does not transfer well to drafting contracts. Similarly, Torts may help a student write an appellate brief on a torts question, but the typical Torts class does not provide the knowledge organization to make it easy to draft interrogatories in a torts case. The torts doctrine is not organized in a manner in long-term memory that will transfer easily to drafting interrogatories.

In conclusion, a major problem with legal education is that it is not taught in a manner that allows lawyers to easily retrieve needed knowledge from long-term memory. In other words, law schools generally do not teach their students to be fluent in contact drafting, drafting interrogatories, or many of the other essential skills of lawyers. This must change if legal educators want to produce practice-ready attorneys.

(Scott Fruehwald)

May 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Indirectly assessing writing and analysis skills in a first-year legal writing course"

This article is by Professor John D. Schunk (Santa Clara) and can be found at 40 S.U. L. Rev. 47 (2012).  From the introduction:

Early each August as one prepares to teach a legal writing course for first-year law students, the legal writing teacher has to confront, prioritize, and reconcile these ideas for the academic year ahead. With the ultimate goal of trying to help produce practice-ready law school graduates, how can the legal writing teacher accomplish this? With forty students, can the legal writing teacher provide prompt feedback based on rigorous assignments? Does the legal writing teacher have the time to give students meaningful, formative, and summative assessments? Should students start a new writing assignment while the teacher reviews and comments on the current assignment?

Recent research suggests that testing plays an important role in student learning. This is known as the “testing effect,” and research shows that taking a test positively increases the individual's memory for the tested material. This effect extends to the study of complex academic materials.

This article suggests that one underused, if not ignored, arrow in the legal writing teacher's quiver is the selective use of multiple-choice assessments. Studies have shown that multiple-choice assessments can measure student performance for both analysis and writing - two of the cornerstones for any legal writing course.

 This article envisions not a multiple-choice assessment about legal writing; instead, it envisions using a multiple-choice assessment that forces the student into the role of editor for both presentation and substantive analysis.

 If used well, this type of multiple-choice assessment can provide a series of benefits. It can supplement the traditional direct assessment of student writing and rewriting by allowing the legal writing teacher to assess discrete writing skills quickly, to better provide prompt feedback to students, to increase the rigor or the number of assignments students undertake, and to provide either formative or summative assessments.

Based on two years of experience, this article explains how one might incorporate this idea into a traditional first-year legal writing course. Initially, Part I identifies the ultimate object of any first-year legal writing course. Next, Part II looks at how the ultimate objective of a first-year legal writing course is compatible with traditional multiple-choice techniques for assessing writing and analysis skills. It reviews how important testing is to student learning. It also reviews early and more recent attempts to develop multiple-choice tests for assessing writing and analysis skills. Part III summarizes how I developed a multiple-choice assessment for my legal writing course and what I learned from using it. This includes a comparison of student performance on the multiple-choice assessment and a subsequent direct assessment of students' writing. Part III concludes by suggesting ways in which a legal writing course or program could benefit from using the type of multiple-choice assessment described in this article.


May 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

When Will There Be Enough Women on SCOTUS? Ask Justice Ginsburg

According to ABANow:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg envisions a day when the U.S. Supreme Court is made up entirely of women.

“Sometimes I’m asked the question ‘When will there be enough?’ and I say, ‘Well, when there are nine.’ For most of the country’s existence, there were nine of the same sex and they were all men, and nobody thought that that was out of order,” Ginsburg said at the American Bar Association Section of International Law 2013 Spring Meeting.

For more on the interview (on other topics), please click here.


May 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why the Billable Hour Endures

Over at Belly of the Beast (April 24), veteran lawyer Steven J. Harper defends his criticism of the billable hour. Here are some excerpts:

Last month, I wrote a New York Times op-ed discussing the billable hour regime and its unfortunate consequences for the legal profession. The piece generated a lot of response, most of which supported my themes. Readers generally agreed that the system rewards unproductive behavior, invites abuse, and pits attorneys’ financial self-interest against their clients’ goals.

 In fact, the billable hour system arose from a desire for greater transparency. Before it gained widespread use, clients typically received a bill that included a single line: “For services rendered.” When today’s senior partners entered the profession, firms kept track of their time but didn’t impose mandatory minimum billable hour requirements. In fact, a 1958 ABA pamphlet recommended that attorneys maintain better time records and strive to bill clients 1,300 hours a year.

Unfortunately, transparency gave way to short-term profit-maximizing behavior that distorted the billable hour into an internal law firm measure of “productivity.” Quantity of time billed became more important than the quality or effectiveness of effort expended. Today’s required annual minimum hours typically run close to 2,000 — and most associates understand that enhancing their prospects for advancement requires many more.

But in practice, few clients are well-positioned to challenge “the relationship of time, task and cost.” For a complex case, what motions should be filed and how much time should their preparation take? How many witness depositions are needed? And of what length? What’s the right level of staffing to maximize the chances for success?

Some in-house counsel possess the sophistication to provide meaningful answers to these and other questions that underlie any effort to assess the relationship of hourly fees to “time, task and cost.” But most don’t. They trust their lawyers to do the right thing under an incentive structure that pushes those lawyers in the opposite direction.

I wonder what we would find if law professors were required to report their hours of work. I think we would see a wide range of  results.



May 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)