Saturday, June 1, 2013

Using Student Evaluation Data to Examine and Improve Your Program

Most of the time student evaluations end up in storage after the professors have read them.  However, David Thomson has used student evaluations to study and improve his school's Lawyering Process Program.

Using Student Evaluation Data to Examine and Improve Your Program.

Abstract: This article describes a study of five years of student evaluation data for the Lawyering Process Program at the University of Denver. The purpose of the study was to look at that aspect of student evaluation data that we might prefer not look at: the students who are unhappy for some reason. The hope was that we would, over time, see a reduction in the number of negative responses to relevant evaluation questions. As the program grew and matured over the five year period of the study, indeed we did see that reduction, which we took to mean that our program had improved over that period. Further, we used the data to examine the question of classroom size and its relationship to negative responses to evaluation questions. We discovered that there is a correlation between small classrooms and fewer negative responses to our evaluation.

(Scott Fruehwald

June 1, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teaching a course to law students in legal "compliance" skills

In a previous post, we noted how one law school administrator is advising students to seek jobs doing legal compliance work since that's where some of the action is these days (at least in comparison to pursuing the traditional law firm route which is a dead letter for many).  OK, but that means schools need to start offering a course that teaches students how to do that sort of work.  Over at Law.com's corporate counsel blog, Morgan Lewis partner Ryan McConnell describes the new legal compliance course he and another just finished teaching at the U. Houston Law Center.  Remember to take good notes.

Teaching Compliance: How Law Schools Can Fight Unemployment

Most U.S. law schools have been slow to respond in adding courses to meet this demand. Jay Martin (chief compliance officer at Baker Hughes) and I came up with the compliance class after we held a successful symposium on the topic at UHLC in 2012. Our goal was to organize a course that focused on systems and processes over a particular subject matter. We organized the class around basic building blocks for a compliance program:

  1. Leadership
  2. Standards and controls
  3. Risk assessment (and forecasting)
  4. Communication
  5. Training
  6. Monitoring and response

We drew these from the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, settlement agreements between companies and the U.S. Justice Department (so called deferred and non-prosecution agreements), guidance from the OECD, the recent DOJ/SEC FCPA Guidance, and the U.K. Ministry of Justice’s Adequate Procedures Guidance. We also drew on material risk-based programs (what we called the Moneyball approach to compliance) that I put together with Daniel Trujillo (an innovative chief compliance officer who now works at Walmart).

The first thing we did was agree that the course would not emphasize any particular compliance subject matter. It could not be a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act class or a class focused on trade controls. It had to focus on processes that were applicable to any compliance risk and use subject matter (such as the FCPA) to apply the processes. The course focused on teaching students how to design a program by mapping the risk areas to these key elements. For some companies the risk areas may be international, for others they may be purely domestic. The approach to assessing and mitigating compliance risk (or the risk-based approach) was designed to Bayesian—examining probabilities for different types compliance events based on known historical data and the potential for compliance failures, and the risk of a specific compliance failure for a particular compliance risk. The main course book was Nate Silver’s The Signal and The Noise. Students were able to hear from different in-house lawyers who came in as guest speakers to discuss their compliance program and challenges.

Class discussion included not only the subject matters that are most often associated with compliance, such as the FCPA and internal investigations, but such topics as whether compliance officers should be lawyers, whether compliance advice was privileged (and when), how to build a compliance program into a business, and how to make online training effective. The students tested our views on how to make a compliance program effective and the best internal communication methods. Although the course was only offered as a test class by the law school, next year it will be a full semester, three-hour course, with a number of class sessions devoted to making predictions about future compliance failures.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

June 1, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The One-Page Primer on Writing an Appellate Brief

The One-Page Primer on Writing an Appellate Brief

In Probate & Property, the magazine of the ABA Section on Real Property, Trust, and Estate Law, Professor B. Taylor Mattis offers a one page primer on writing appellate briefs for transactional lawyers, lawyers who often have only limited experience in crafting these documents. The advice also might be helpful to the novice student.

(ljs)

June 1, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 31, 2013

USNWR ranks law schools based on "best bang for the buck."

From Bob Morse's Inside the College Rankings column at the USNWR blog.  Included below are the top 10 schools under Mr. Morse's new "efficiency" ranking.

Which Highly Ranked Law Schools Operate Most Efficiently?

U.S. News has developed a new, exclusive list showing which law schools are able to produce the highest educational quality, as determined by their place in our Best Law Schools rankings, but spend relatively less money to achieve that quality.

. . . .

U.S. News measures financial resources in part by taking into account how much a law school spends per student on instruction, including faculty and staff salaries, library, supporting services and other expenditures, such as financial aid. The financial resources ranking factor is a direct measure of the size of each law school's yearly budget expenditures per student compared with other law schools, and it has an 11.25 percent weight in the Best Law Schools rankings methodology.

The new list is based on the concept of operating efficiency, defined as a law school's total budget expenditures per student divided by its overall score – which U.S. News uses to determine its overall numerical rank – in the 2014 Best Law Schools rankings. This calculation reveals how much each law school is spending for each point in its overall score and thus, its position in the rankings.

The less a law school spends relative to other schools as correlated to its overall U.S. News rank, the more efficient it is in producing a quality education compared with other schools.

Law school (name) (state)
U.S. News 2014 Best Law Schools rank
Total fiscal year 2012 spending per student
Spending per student for each point in the U.S. News overall score
University of Louisville (Brandeis) (KY)
     68
     $28,151
                 $654.67
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey–Camden
     91
     $26,858
                 $688.67
George Mason University (VA)
     41
     $38,684
                 $703.35
University of Wisconsin—Madison
     33
     $42,415
                 $731.29
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey—Newark
     86
     $30,236
                 $755.90
College of William and Mary (Marshall-Wythe) (VA)
     33
     $44,104
                 $760.41
University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill
     31
    $45,232
                 $766.64
University of Tennessee—Knoxville
     61
     $34,792
                 $773.16
University of Nebraska—Lincoln
     61
     $35,228
                 $782.84
University of Kentucky
     58
     $36,407
                 $791.46
       
       
       
       

Click here to see the rest of the schools that made the list.

(jbl).

May 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Mayor Cory Booker Addresses a Graduating Class

Recently, lawyer and Newark Mayor Cory Booker addressed the graduating class at Yale. Here is an excerpt:

I promise you, you will have mornings where you wake up and feel this weight of shame weighing you down in your bed so you don’t want to get up,” Booker said. “I tell you, you will have days like this, where [you will feel] fear, or pain, or sorrow, or even the stinking malaise of depression — where you can’t even find your enthusiasms. And I’ve come to realize that in life, real courage is not giving a speech or running into a burning building … Real courage is holding on to a still voice in your head that says ‘I must keep going.’ It’s that voice that says nothing is a failure if it is not final — that voice that says to you: ‘Get out of bed. Keep going. I will not quit. I will not give up no matter how dark the days, no matter how big my failure. I won’t lose lessons that I could gather while on my knees. I won’t lose the lessons I can find in my lowest pits of despair, because when I emerge, it’s those lessons that will define my being.

 He continued:

 As you put your sights on your goals — no matter how great and compelling they are — as you look into the distance, don’t forget what is right in front of you today. No matter how great your dreams, no matter how great your destiny, the biggest thing you can do in any day is a small act of kindness.

Booker told the seniors that often those small acts are “the least glamorous things,” such as helping a child improve his or her reading, or helping someone fill out an application for food stamps.

“Be love, be kindness, be justice,” urged Booker. “Don’t let it be something you seek; let it be something you embody.”

The full account of his speech is here.

(ljs)

 

May 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Will an LL.M. help you get a job?

The conventional wisdom, at least prior to the current law school "crisis," was that an LL.M., especially in tax, was a very good investment in terms of increasing one's job prospects.  That was especially true for grads from lower ranked schools who might be able to leverage an LL.M. from a top program like NYU's into a BigLaw job or a really good government position.  But more recently, some are claiming that most LL.M's, like the J.D., merely exploits the hopes of young people facing a bleak job market with few alternatives.  "Lawyers losing money" is what Professor Paul Campos calls the LL.M. 

On the other side of the coin is this report from a 2012 LL.M graduate who says that for him and others he knows who obtained an advanced degree in taxation, the investment was definitely worth it.  From Law.com

Does a Graduate Law Degree Increase a Lawyer's Value?

. . . .

The 24 credit hours spent in the classroom while obtaining an LL.M. will surely provide you with an in-depth understanding of the law in a specialized area, but will it help you get a job in this specialized area?

Based on my personal experience, the answer is a resounding "yes"; I would not be where I am in my career without the degree.

. . . .

I was curious to determine whether other LL.M. recipients shared similar experiences as I, and did those additional three letters after a J.D. really make much of a difference? Brittany Horn Cook, a fellow J.D. LL.M., stated that her LL.M. helped set her apart and gave her a better opportunity to get interviews within the appropriate practice areas. Cook claims she "definitely saw an uptick in responses to applications" once she was simply admitted to the LL.M. program. Cook began her LL.M. study immediately after completing her J.D. in 2010, on the heels of a barren job market. While attending her first semester in the LL.M. program, Cook happened upon a fellow LL.M. student who was working as a trust administrator for a large bank. This student, upon hearing of Cook's job search, offered to pass Cook's resume along to her boss. And thus, Cook entered into the world of trust administration; she now works for a prestigious trust company in Wilmington, Del. Her current job boasts eight employees in its Delaware office — four of whom hold LL.M. degrees.

. . . .

An LL.M. in taxation is seemingly exalted, but other specialization in this degree should also be discussed. Young attorney Danielle Holander received her LL.M. in intellectual property from Yeshiva University in 2010 and is currently unemployed. Holander nonetheless states the experience of obtaining her LL.M. was extremely rewarding intellectually. She does admit that the degree itself has unfortunately not yet produced any practical rewards, financially or otherwise, and in hindsight may not have been the best investment. Then again, the trial advocacy program at Temple Law, which has consistently been ranked in the top two by U.S. News & World Report for trial advocacy, boasts supreme alumni who are top litigators and criminal defenders in the area.

So dear reader, as a young lawyer gazing across the bleak landscape of a weary job market and wondering if going back to school for your LL.M. will help you finally land a gig — the answer is a resounding ... probably not, unless you have an interest in taxation (which is probably a long shot). Then again, if you are enjoying your education, and you are passionate about a particular area of the law, go for it. If nothing else, it will introduce you to other practitioners in the area, and like Cook, that may be the start of your career in a field you would not have otherwise considered.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

May 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Learning to Pay Attention: A Fundamental Legal Skill

One of the biggest problems that law teachers face with the current generation of law students is getting them to pay attention.  R. Lisle Baker & Daniel P. Brown have just posted an excellent article on this topic:

On Engagement: Learning to Pay Attention.

Abstract: In an age of electronic and mental distraction, the ability to pay attention is a fundamental legal skill increasingly important for law students and the lawyers and judges they will become, not only for professional effectiveness, but also to avoid error resulting from distraction. Far from being immutable, engaged attention can be learned. More specifically, with an understanding of how the attention system of the brain works, carefully designed mental practice can over time enhance an individual’s capacity for focused attention, not only psychologically but also over time apparently altering the physical structure within the brain itself. The result can be improved ability for law students to focus attention, to stay calmly on what is intended, without being distracted by irrelevant thought or sense experience, avoiding wasting scarce time and energy otherwise lost to internal or external distraction. Ironically, learning this attentional skill requires temporarily quieting the active process of elaborated thought that law students, lawyers and judges pride themselves on having developed as part of their legal education. In the process, however, a collateral benefit of this practice is also an enhanced ability to be self-aware, hopefully providing law students, lawyers and judges an increased capacity to respond, rather than just react, to legal problems and the human thoughts and emotions that come with them when they arise.

(Scott Fruehwald)

May 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning & Research Newsletter is Out

The Spring 2013 edition is available here, full of news and photos. And here’s the Table of Contents:

Chair’s letter

1

Section Awards

2

Blackwell Award

4

Darby Dickerson Award

5

Golden Pen Award

6

Mary Lawrence Award

7

Section Programs

8

Section Committees

11

Member News

14

Section Posters

15

Other Conferences

26

Twins Who Teach

27

Workshop for Be-ginning Teachers

29

Section Leadership

(ljs)

30

 

May 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dealing With Writer's Block

 

May 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tips for using LinkedIn more effectively.

I can't say whether many of my students have actually found jobs through LinkedIn but I can say that the site seems to be growing very quickly in popularity given the number of networking requests I've received from students over the past several months.  Apparently LinkedIn has added some new features that will enable students to connect more efficiently with alumni from their schools.  Adrian Dayton at The National Law Journal's "Connected Lawyer" column explains.

Three Simple Ways to Connect

. . . LinkedIn has introduced some features that give users more opportunities to gain visibility and business.

The first thing is to tap into your alumni network from law school and undergraduate days. We all have relationships that we should have maintained but didn't, and now LinkedIn has developed a search tool that helps you reconnect with your classmates. You just go to the "Contacts" pull-down menu and select your alma mater. Up pops a list of people who also studied there at the same time as you. You can break this list down by city, company name or industry.

. . . .

You obviously won't know everyone who ever attended your college, and yet there remains an advantage to reaching out to them over total strangers. They share with you something that Malcolm Gladwell called "weak ties." These aren't strong enough to convince someone to go out of their way, but you have something in common that makes them more likely to open your message and maybe even have a telephone conversation. And if you actually knew this person, your job becomes much easier.

 . . . .

The purpose of every online interaction is to arrange a meeting. The purpose of every first meeting is to arrange a second. So how do we get more meetings? By personalizing our messages. How does it make you feel to reconnect with a long-lost friend? Great, right? Compare that to how you would feel if that same friend sent you a generic message on LinkedIn: "Since you are a person I trust, I would like to add you to my network." Personalize your messages. Show real interest in your old friends' careers and where life has taken them.

Read the rest of Mr. Dayton's column here.

(jbl).

May 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips on handling criticism constructively

Good advice for law students heading into their summer jobs and to keep in mind when reviewing feedback from professors next fall.  From The Business Insider (footnotes omitted):

  • Listen up. Figure out whether the criticism is constructive or simply rude. You may feel hurt when your partner says you’re controlling, but having him point out this flaw may help you change and ultimately save the relationship. If criticism could be helpful, lend all ears and try to learn from it instead of getting defensive.
  • Respond calmly. Be respectful no matter what, and thank someone if the feedback is useful. If the critique is uncalled for (that story you wrote was crap!), kill em with kindness. A simple smile makes you the bigger person.
  • Don’t take it personally. Try to remove yourself from the situation and focus on what’s being critiqued. That C+ midterm doesn’t reflect your A+ personality! Instead, it’s a reminder to study a little harder next time, skip all that partying the night before, or realize that calculus simply isn’t your biggest strength.
  • Manage stress. When we’re constantly on edge, we can feel out of control and unable to respond to criticism with a clear head. So take a deeeep breath to keep those stress levels in check.
  • Keep on keepin on’. Remember that the criticism represents just one person’s point of view. Know what your strengths are and don’t let other people’s opinions keep you from working hard towards a goal. If somebody says you’re too short to be a power forward, start working on that jump shot!
(jbl).

May 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wake Forest Law Alum Donating Kidney to Former Professor

An alum of the Wake Forest University School of Law, Chris Beechler (2001), is donating one of his kidneys to his friend and former professor, Dave Pishko, according to a story published by the school. 

“It certainly surprised me,” Pishko said. “Not that it was Chris, but frankly, that there are people in the world who are that selfless … It’s just such an incredible gift.” 

Beechler is the former chair of the NCBA’s Criminal Justice Section and a sole practitioner. Pishko works at the firm of Elliot Pishko Morgan and is a member of the Litigation Section as well as an adjunct professor at Wake Forest’s law school. 

Pishko suffers from the hereditary disease called polycystic kidney disease. Pishko’s father suffered from the disease and he has known for quite some time that he could suffer from the disease as well, which would cause him to need a transplant.

You can read more here.

(ljs)

May 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Summer Research Assistants: Still More Thoughts

How often should you meets with your research assistant? I tell mine that we meet every day that we are both in the law  school building--even if the meeting is for only a few minutes.

The meetings help insure that we both are  on the same page. Without regular check-ups, students often wander down rabbit trails that take them away from the main road. In addition, regular meetings build a sense of collegiality, a sense that we are working together.

(ljs)

 

May 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"A Critique of Best Practices in Legal Education: Five Things All Law Professors Should Know"

This is a new article by Professor Michael T. Gibson (Oklahoma City) available at 42 U. Balt. L. Rev. 1 (2012).  While I only skimmed it, part of Professor Gibson's premise is that the authors of Best Practices for Legal Education have gone too far in their criticism of the Socratic Method since there's lots of empirical evidence that says it's a highly effective pedagogy, including the research reflected in Ken Bain's book What the Best College Teachers Do.

Professor Gibson also argues that, like cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham before him, helping students to think analytically is hard work which unavoidably involves some discomfort and pain on their part.  Thus, Professor Gibson says that a related shortcoming of Best Practices is that it is overly concerned about shielding law students from the pain associated with deep learning.  Thus - in my words, not his - we need to make our students suck it up more than we have to adequately prepare them for the rigors of practice where no client or judge will give one whit about their feelings, only the quality of their work. An excerpt from the introduction:

As for our efforts to follow the lead of the great philosopher, Best Practices alleges that Socratic dialogue is merely our way to “control[] the dialogue, invite[] the student to ‘guess what [we're] thinking,’ and then inevitably find[] the response lacking. The result is a climate in which ‘never is heard an encouraging word and ...  thoughts remain cloudy all day.”’ If by now we are searching for an encouraging word, Best Practices declares that our ways of thinking are “fundamentally negative[,] ... critical, pessimistic, and depersonalizing.”
To be fair, Best Practices later recognizes that we do some things well, and it has some excellent suggestions for improving our teaching. To be candid, you will need considerable patience (or very thick skin) to reach those parts of the book. The authors of Best Practices sincerely want to improve legal education, but they sometimes seem more interested in venting their frustrations than in reaching their audience. I know talented, intelligent, conscientious litigators who have endured expensive and dysfunctional discovery procedures under the thumb of judges who humiliated them, encouraged them to abandon their ethics and values, undermined their self-worth, required them to guess what the judges were thinking, and created an atmosphere that was “fundamentally negative[,] ... critical, pessimistic, and depersonalizing.” But those attorneys did not voice their feelings in their trial briefs. Whatever the merits of Best Practices' allegations and opinions, neither their tone nor their conclusionary nature will encourage law faculty to keep reading.
That is a shame. Much of Best Practices is well worth reading. And while I disagree with some of it, it has caused me to think about what I do in (and out of) the classroom. Best Practices has helped me recognize sins I have long committed, and it has opened my eyes to a strange new world that I had barely glimpsed during twenty-eight years in the classroom. It has unintentionally challenged me to spend two years reading and thinking about an astounding amount of empirical research on higher education. Finally, just as I challenge my best students to confront some dark parts of the law, Best   Practices has inspired me to confront some of the dark parts of legal education.
Part B of this article, “Raising Students to Higher Levels of Learning,” reveals a treasure that Best Practices buries. While the book says it draws on “long-recognized principles of sound educational practices,” it refers only once to a classic book on how people learn. Even worse, it does not mention once that book's key concept of education: the idea that people learn in six stages or levels, which must be climbed in a specific order. This article presents those six levels, shows where they appear in legal education, explains how we should use them to structure our Socratic dialogues with individual students and our class sessions, suggests how students can use them to assess their own learning, and suggests how we can use them to assess our teaching.
Part C, “Being Honest with Students: Disclosing What We Really Want Them to Learn,” explains what Best Practices means when it insists that we tell our students what we want them to learn. Part C shows why this recommendation is neither trite nor a matter of spoon feeding students. It explains how even conscientious faculty--including myself--routinely and unintentionally deceive students, and suggests how we can correct this problem.
Part D, “Resisting the Urge to Abandon the Socratic Dialogue,” admits that, as Best Practices contends, some faculty abuse Socratic dialogue, but it shows that some exemplary teachers--both in law and out of law--endorse the technique, that many of the technique's supposed sins are the fault of others, and that Best Practices' goal of making education painless conflicts with the realities of human learning.
Part E, “Engaging Students: the Promises and Perils of Problems,” corrects Best Practices' assumption that the problem method is devoid of flaws. Part E identifies several weaknesses of the problem method and shows how to avoid those weaknesses.
Finally, Part F, “How the Best Teachers Treat Students,” argues that Best Practices pays far too little attention to current empirical research, especially work done in the rest of higher education. In doing so, it fails to provide the types of evidence and arguments needed to persuade traditional law faculty, and it sometimes shortchanges the empirical research it does use. Accordingly, Part F introduces law faculty to one of the most important recent books about teaching in higher education and to the immense amount of current empirical research, in both law schools and higher education in general, which Best Practices overlooks. This empirical research will be the focus of the next article in this series: A Critique of Best Practices in Legal Education, Part II: What Introverted Law Professors Need to Know About Empirical Research on Faculty--Student Interaction and About Group Work.

(jbl).

May 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Advice for Summer Interns

At the Greedy Associates blog, attorney William Peacock offers four pieces of advice:

4. This (Probably) Won't Lead to a Job; It Will Follow You

 Oh, you haven't heard? No one is hiring. Even if they are, most smaller employers aren't going to hold a job open for a year or two while you finish school, fail the bar, and retake the bar twice more.

Permanent gig or not, future prospective employers will contact that firm. They'll talk about your work habits, wardrobe, and the time you broke into tears in the office after finding out that McSteamy on Grey's Anatomy died after the plane crash.

3. Flex For the Odd Request; Don't Be a 'Yes' Man or Woman

Who would've thought that an internship with a general practice firm would've led to a movie script about a Chinese immigrant prostitute-turned-lawyer? Though that abomination of a film was never made, the writing (and casting) was beyond fun. It also provided a much more informal way to get to know the boss.

Handling odd requests doesn't require you to be a pushover, however. Once you've built a comfortable working relationship with your boss, if you have an idea for a case strategy (or a plot twist), toss it out there in a respectful manner. If phrased right, it'll show that you care about the case, the client, and the firm.

2. Make Your Deadlines; Don't Overpromise

In most law offices, work ebbs and flows. One week, you'll be elbow-deep in deposition transcripts and last-minute trial prep. Other weeks, you'll handle a single client intake. No matter how busy it gets, you must make deadlines. If your boss needs something on Thursday, it should be done by Wednesday afternoon.

That being said, there are only so many hours in the day. If you're already digging through discovery, and your boss requests a memo on her desk by the morning, speak up! Let her know that you'll have to set aside the other projects to make the deadline.

1. Be Professional; Be Yourself

The World Cup is going on. So what? Besides the fact that soccer isn't a real sport (kidding ...?!), you probably shouldn't be watching sports, or Grey's Anatomy reruns, in the office. (Unless, of course, your boss is a soccer fan.)

Acting and dressing professionally is essential to leaving a positive impression. Professionalism doesn't mean boring, however. Show off a bit of that humor, sports knowledge, or appreciation for fine films. Law firms are looking for lawyers and people they can stand to work with for forty++ hours per week.

(ljs)

May 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Intellectual Diversity of Law School Faculties

Joel Alicea, president emeritus of the Harvard Federalist Society and the organizer of the Federalist Society’s conference on intellectual diversity, has published an article in the Washington Times entitled ALICEA: The Academy’s War on Free Thinking: U.S. law schools treat diversity of news as a "thoughtcrime."

Alicea begins, "'One cannot truly understand a legal argument on behalf of one client or side without thoroughly understanding and addressing competing arguments and objections,' said Harvard Law SchoolDean Martha Minow at a recent Federalist Society conference on intellectual diversity in law schools. Unfortunately, this foundational tenet of legal education is not realized in the nation’s leading law schools, including Ms. Minow‘s, where students learn a narrowly progressive view of the law from a predominantly leftist faculty. Our nation’s top law schools are failing their students, and in a country whose future will be shaped by those students, it is an urgent problem that we should demand law schools address."

He continues, "It is beyond dispute that the nation’s top law schools are bastions of liberalism. A 2005 study by professor John O. McGinnis and lawyers Matthew Schwartz and Benjamin Tisdell found that 94 percent of Stanford Law faculty who made political contributions gave exclusively or predominantly to Democratic candidates, and although partisan affiliation is hardly the best proxy for jurisprudential and political views, the degree of the disparity is staggering. Professor Nicholas Rosenkranz of Georgetown reported at an intellectual-diversity conference that the ratio of liberal to conservative faculty at his institution is 116 to 3."

He adds, "My own experience as a student at Harvard Law School is that liberal premises are assumed in most classroom discussions. . . .  The message is the same: Conservative beliefs need not be taken seriously. This marginalization of students who dissent from campus orthodoxy on vital questions of law and policy is shameful."

He argues, "But the intellectual homogeneity of the legal academy poses a deeper problem than the marginalization of conservative students. It is the predominantly liberal student body at elite law schools that is most harmed by the dearth of conservative voices."

He concludes that "If our elite law schools are to serve their students and the country well, they must actively seek out the best minds representing all points of view."

(Scott Fruehwald)

May 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Working with Student Research Assistants: More Thoughts

 1.You can train most students to collect information. However, you need to speak with them on how to go about doing the research. I often find that I fail to give insufficient guidance.

 2.  Not all students are good at analyzing and synthesizing information. I try to hire students who are in the middle of the class or higher. At least for my projects, the ability to synthesize does not correlate with classroom grades. If a student cannot analyze or synthesize adequately, I assign him or her more work on collecting information for future projects. Sometimes students turn in work that is too superficial. The solution is to show them good work samples so they see the level of analysis that you want.

   3. The best students are the ones that tell me that my project or methodology needs an overhaul. Students who can offer me a better approach to my work are exciting co-workers. I am never able to determine in advance which students can make this contribution. 

    4.In selecting students, I do not take risks. I want students who seem to have a work ethic and no emotional quirks or problems. I am happy to work with troubled or difficult students in other ways, but I need research assistants who will produce and will be easy to work with.

(ljs)

May 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dean’s Search at the University of Montana Law School

The University of Montana has long hosted an innovative law school. It now has opened its search for a new dean. From the announcement:

The University of Montana seeks a Dean to lead its School of Law as it begins the second century of its distinguished history. 

Founded in 1912, the School of Law is an established leader in legal education, preparing students for serving people in the practice of law through effective integration of theory and practice.  Our curriculum begins with an innovative skills-based law-firm program in the first year, continues with intensive trial and transactional simulation courses in the second year, and finishes with a required third-year clinical program offering professional placements at both in-house law clinics and government and public-interest law offices. Beyond preparing students for practice, our curriculum emphasizes areas of law significant to the Rocky Mountain West including natural resource law, environmental law, and Indian law. 

At a challenging time for legal education, the success of Montana’s model in training and placing lawyers has earned it recognition as one of the best-value law schools in the nation. Our strengths allow us to attract a small, diverse, talented, and tightly knit student body, and have made us one of a handful of law schools to attract significantly more applicants this year than last. As Montana’s only law school, we enjoy a close connection to the Montana bench and bar.

You can read more here.

(ljs)

May 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Corporate counsel finds few lawyers possess sufficient tech skills to win his business

In an article from The American Lawyer, corporate counsel for Kia Motors talks about a "tech audit" he devised to test outside counsel's skills in rudimentary software programs like Word and Excel.  If a firm wants Kia's business, a "top associate" of the firm's choice must pass the "tech audit."  So far nine firms have tried and all have failed.

Big Law Whipped for Poor Tech Training

D. Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel at Kia Motors America, really does have good intentions as he humiliates Big Law firms about their dismal technology skills — and he is careful never to embarrass a partner.

Flaherty mesmerized a standing-room-only crowd on the opening day of LegalTech West Coast at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles with his electric keynote, "Raising the Bar on Technological Competence — the Outside Counsel Tech Audit."

Frustrated by ridiculous bills for routine "commodity" matters, Flaherty decided to strike back, and recently launched his technology audit program, where firms bidding for Kia's business must bring a top associate for a live test of their skills using basic, generic business tech tools such as Microsoft Word and Excel, for simple, rudimentary tasks.

So far, the track record is zero. Nine firms have taken the test, and all failed. One firm flunked twice.

"The audit should take one hour," said Flaherty, "but the average pace is five hours." In real life, that adds up to a whole lot of wasted money, he said. Flaherty uses the test to help him decide winners of the beauty contests, and to set rates and set performance goals. "I take 5 percent off every bill until they pass the test."

. . . .

Despite his schooling of Big Law, Flaherty empathizes with his Big Law colleagues. A key problem they face is the same issue confronted by probably 99 percent of all computer users. We are only using a very small percentage of the available tools, because we haven't taken the time to learn how to use them. Who isn't guilty of that? And he also threw some blame at tech providers, who sometimes load an overwhelming number of options that paralyze uses. (For example, many say too much tech was a reason for the almost-universal hatred of Microsoft's Vista.)

As a dramatic example of his point about how little we all know about basic tech, Flaherty polled the audience to find out how many of us knew that you can "print to PDF" in one click. Less than 30 percent of attendees raised their hand — the same percentage, said Flaherty, of associates who do not know how to print to PDF during his audits.

"Basic PDFs are required by courts," he explained, and it's a one-click process. But there's a but — you can't have live links on PDFs that go to the court, and the document must be properly formatted — tasks many lawyers simply do not know how to execute, said Flaherty, who is based in Los Angeles.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

May 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

New Book on the Flipped Classroom

We have talked before about the "flipped classroom," where students listen to lectures outside the classroom then apply that knowledge through interactive learning in the classroom.  (here)  Now two educators have written a book on the subject: Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams (2012).

Description: "It started with a simple observation: students need their teachers present to answer questions or to provide help if they get stuck on an assignment; they don't need their teachers present to listen to a lecture or review content. From there, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams began the flipped classroom-students watched recorded lectures for homework and completed their assignments, labs, and tests in class with their teacher available.

What Bergmann and Sams found was that their students demonstrated a deeper understanding of the material than ever before. This is the authors story, and they're confident it can be yours too. Learn what a flipped classroom is and why it works and get the information you need to flip a classroom.

You'll also learn the flipped mastery model, where students learn at their own pace-furthering opportunities for personalized education. This simple concept is easily replicable in any classroom, doesn't cost much to implement, and helps foster self-directed learning. Once you flip, you wont want to go back!"

(Scott Fruehwald)

May 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)