Saturday, June 8, 2013

New legal skills-related scholarship: "Financial retrenchment and institutional entrenchment: will legal education respond, explode, or just wait it out? A clinician's view."

By Professor Ian Weinstein (Fordham) and available at 41 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 61 (2013).  From the introduction:

Both markets and ideas have turned against the American legal profession. Legal hiring has contracted, and law school enrollments are decreasing. The business models of big law and legal education are under pressure, current levels of student indebtedness seem unsustainable, and a hero has yet to emerge from our fragmented regulatory structures. In the realm of ideas, the information revolution has sparked deep critiques of structured knowledge and expertise, opening the roles of the law and the university in society to reexamination. We are less enamored of the scholar-lawyer and gaze with longing at technocrats.

Thank you for this chance to speak about the role of clinical faculty in the new legal environment, which I take to be the world we will make, together, as we respond to market forces and new ideas. While my comments will necessarily advert to larger institutions and themes, my perspective is from one part (clinical faculty) of one sector (legal education) of what is, for most of us, our favorite complex social structure (law).

I hope that clinical law faculty can lead and ease the transition to programs of legal education responsive to the new legal environment. Clinicians have supervised in a lot of different settings, and we know what works and how to return real value to law students. A well-structured clinical program integrates simulation, field placement, and in-house clinics to offer effective programs with reasonable efficiency. Clinicians have been experimenting with legal education for years and can help legal education meet the challenges of the new legal environment.

I fear, however, that in a time of shrinking resources, some faculties and schools may become bogged down in contentious and ultimately counterproductive battles over how to allocate shrinking resources. In this version of the new legal environment, the status distinctions among law faculty could have real bite. Programs responsive to the expressed current needs of the bar and students could be sacrificed to programs controlled by better-entrenched faculty.

(jbl).

June 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Backlogged Veterans’ Claims: Law Students Help Speed Them Up

Thousands of veterans whose benefits claims have become backlogged may have a new solution: a new partnership between the William & Mary Law School and the Veteran’s Administration is using law students to handle veteran benefits claims more quickly. The hope is that the program can address the notoriously long processing times that disabled veterans currently experience. 

The William & Mary program is the first of its kind and is part of longstanding efforts to reduce current processing times for veterans, which can run in excess of a year in the worst instances. The law clinic operates on a pro bono basis and pairs volunteer law students and faculty members with veterans applying for disability benefits.

You can read more at JD Journal.

(ljs)

June 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Law school winners and losers in the applications game

Bloomberg Law has put together a short video called "7 Things You Don't Know About Law School Admissions" describing some of the surprising stats resulting from the historic drop in application numbers this year.  For instance, even though most schools are experiencing significant declines, several low ranked schools have actually seen their application numbers spike.  And while Yale is still the toughest ticket in town, there are other schools where it's almost de facto open admissions.

Hat tip to Above the Law.

(jbl).

June 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do Parents Want Their Children to Become Lawyers?

According to a recent survey, most parents do. From Lawyers.com:

Today, Lawyers.com is releasing findings from a new survey asking parents if they want their child to grow up and become or marry a lawyer. Highlights from the survey include:

 64% of survey respondents with children in the household want their child to become a lawyer.

  • Moms (55%) are more likely to be interested in having a lawyer as a son- or daughter-in-law than dads (38%).
  • 80% of parents with household incomes of less than $25,000 per year said they’d like their child to become a lawyer, versus 54% of those with household incomes over $75,000.

 Full details are on the Lawyers.com blog. Neither of my children ever aspired to become lawyers. They thought their lawyer-parents worked too hard and that being a lawyer was boring. They opted for becoming an artist and becoming a sex educator and therapist instead.

(ljs)

June 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Job opening at Syracuse University College of Law for "practitioner in residence"

Here are the details:

Syracuse University College of Law is seeking a Practitioner-in-Residence with criminal practice experience for its Office of Clinical Legal Education.  Additional experience in real estate transactions is desirable, though not required.  The Practitioner will work with clinic faculty and students on clinic cases (primarily criminal cases).  The initial contract period will commence on August 19, 2013, and end on June 30, 2014.  Future contract periods, if the Practitioner is renewed, would be for 12 months, commencing on July 1 of each year.  Salary is commensurate with the candidate's prior experience.  The Practitioner will be considered a full-time, non-tenure track, employee of the College of Law, and will receive all applicable employee benefits. The College of Law is particularly interested in applicants who will bring diversity to the faculty.

Candidates must have a J.D. degree and be admitted to the New York State Bar.  Also, at least three years of experience in criminal law is required.  Experience in real estate transactions and teaching and supervisory experience is preferred.

Interested applicants should submit their resume, cover letter and at least three references via Syracuse University's job opportunity website, https://www.sujobopps.com/.  Applications will be accepted until June 17, 2013.  Syracuse University is committed to diversity and is an equal opportunity employer.  

(jbl).

June 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is the Socratic Method Sexist?

A recent article in the Harvard Crimson raises that issue. Here is a brief excerpt:

Today, many students and faculty have raised concerns over the teaching method, saying that men are more likely to participate voluntarily in Law School classes than women.

In a 2004 study on gender issues at Harvard Law School, a then-third-year law student Adam M. C. Neufeld found that men were 50 percent more likely than women to volunteer at least one comment during class, and 144 percent more likely to speak voluntarily at least three times. The study also showed that 10 percent of students accounted for nearly half of all volunteered comments in first-year law classrooms.

“I think the big point is that many men weren’t talking too,” Neufeld said. “There was a small number of people who account for most of the comments.”

More recently, according to a 2012 study at Yale Law School, men made 58 percent of comments in the classroom, while women made 42 percent.

Yet the root cause of this disparity remains contested, as professors, students, and administrators debate whether the Socratic method—the traditional form of legal pedagogy—needs to be adapted to account for gender disparities in the classroom.

For many in the Law School, the Socratic method is an outdated teaching style that reinforces gender imbalances in academia.

“Women take longer to process thoughts before they feel comfortable to say them out loud than men do,” Jensen said, adding that men feel more natural in that kind of classroom atmosphere.

You can read more here.

In my classes, I don’t detect a gender disparity in who participates in class. I have never been a big fan of the Socratic method and employ it as window dressing, because students expect to see it. If I were untenured and had senior faculty sitting in on my classes, I would employ it more. The real value of the Socratic method is that it promotes in-class interaction. However, there are other ways to involve a class, for example, small group projects and problem solving exercises.

(ljs)

June 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on Michael Gibson's Article: A Critique of Best Practices in Legal Education: Five Things All Law Professors Should Know

Last week, one of my co-bloggers posted a nice summary of A CRITIQUE OF BEST PRACTICES IN LEGAL EDUCATION: FIVE THINGS ALL LAW PROFESSORS SHOULD KNOW, by Michael T. Gibson, 42 U. Balt. L. Rev. 1 (2012).  Because I think this article is so important, I will concentrate on some of its specific points in this post.

1. "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."

2. Legal education reform needs to draw on general education scholarship, especially BENJAMIN S. BLOOM ET AL., TAXONOMY OF EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES: THE CLASSIFICATION OF EDUCATIONAL GOALS: HANDBOOK I: COGNITIVE DOMAIN 18 (Benjamin S. Bloom ed., 1956).  Bloom's Taxonomy in the version Gibson uses is 1) Knowledge, 2) Comprehension, 3) Application, 4) Analysis, 5) Synthesis, 6) Evaluation.  He believes that we need to teach using Bloom’s six levels in order.  [I strongly agree with this comment.  Bloom’s Taxonomy is the basis for much of contemporary education theory. See here for an earlier post on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Professor Gibson does an excellent job of integrating Bloom’s six steps with the rest of his teaching method.]

3. He admits that, as Best Practices contends, some faculty abuse Socratic dialogue, but he 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. [I agree with Professor Gibson’s defense of the Socratic method. Yes, it requires effort, but as education scholars have shown, real learning requires effort. Professors should employ the Socratic method as long as it is used properly and is only one of several teaching approaches.]

4. "A good teacher expressly tells her students what she wants them to learn." Gibson notes, " However, when it comes to skills, we rarely identify patterns explicitly. We may know intuitively how to read a statute, but as I discussed earlier, how often do we tell students that statute reading has its own set of patterns?" Consequently, a professor needs to prepare a list of the basic steps "for almost every non-doctrinal concept I expect my students to know." He adds that he includes non-doctrinal skills in his class syllabi. A teacher can even email his class an agenda before every class. [I agree that being explicit is very important for doctrinal professors. In my legal writing classes, I teach statutory analysis, analogical reasoning, syllogistic reasoning, distinguishing cases, etc., including exercises on these topics.  However, students need to be exposed to these basic skills in all classes. As Professor Gibson has declared, "Repetition and reinforcement are important learning strategies. Moreover, people who are new to a discipline often have difficulty transferring knowledge from one context (such as an academic success class) to another (such as a doctrinal course)."]

5. Professor Gibson stresses the importance of application. "People who comprehend information may not be able to decide when or how they should use it. It is one thing for a medical student who has just memorized the symptoms of Disease X to answer correctly if her supervisor asks, "Does this patient have Disease X?" It is another thing when the medical student has studied a hundred diseases and is able to answer correctly if her supervisor asks, "What disease does this patient have?" Application is the skill of using information—whether from books, the classroom, or experience—in the real world. It shows we can make sense of and master situations we encounter for the first time." [This is consistent with my statement in a post a few weeks ago, "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 sum, everyone who has an interest in improving legal education should read Professor Gibson’s article.

(Scott Fruehwald)

P.S. I found this on Professor Gibson's webpage:

I believe that teaching is a crucial part of my job, and I devote considerable energy to it. My office door is open throughout the day, except during lunch and the hour or so before a class, when I’m busy preparing. Students are welcome to visit whenever my door is open.

To help students better prepare for class, I’ve prepared an extensive set of reading materials for each course. For each class session, those reading materials

  • explain why the assignment is important;
  • describe how the legal doctrines in the assignment are significant in the real world;
  • provide background information that students may need to understand the cases in the assignment,
  • present a series of questions that we’ll discuss in class; and
  • provide one or more fact patterns that help show how a legal doctrine works.

To help students understand and follow the classroom discussion, about thirty minutes before each class I e-mail students the agenda for that class, and I display that agenda in the classroom.

To help students learn how to apply the rules they’ve found in cases and statutes, we’ll frequently approach a problem (usually drawn from an actual case) just as an attorney would. For example, after we’ve identified the elements of a rule, we’ll use those elements to create a list of witnesses we would call during the trial and the questions that we would ask them.

June 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Widener Law has offered buy-outs to 21 faculty members in response to falling applications

You may remember late last year that Vermont Law School announced a buy-out plan for staff members in light of declining tuition revenue given the drop in law school applications.  There was talk that faculty buy-out offers might be next through I haven't seen any reports of that actually happening.  Now the Delaware Law Weekly is reporting that Widener Law School, which occupies two campuses in Harrisburg, PA and Wilmington, DE, several months ago offered 21 faculty members buy-out packages in response to declining applications.  (The university at large offered buy-outs to another 17 profs).

Widener May Split Its Campuses Into Two Law Schools

Widener has not been immune from the drop in law school applications and, thus, decreased enrollment. According to university data, Widener had 1,369 full- and part-time students at both campuses during the fall of 2011. Of that total, 950 students attended the Wilmington campus while the remaining 419 attended the Harrisburg campus. This year, the school recorded 1,181 full- and part-time students at both campuses, with 817 in Wilmington and 364 in Harrisburg.

University data also reveals that applications for the Harrisburg campus are down roughly 24 percent. As of May 14, Widener had 308 Harrisburg-specific applications - a sharp decline from the 408 applications they had on the same date last year.

. . . .

In February, the university offered buyout packages to 21 law professors and 17 other professors university-wide. Of the law professors, 16 were based in Wilmington and five were located in Harrisburg.

"The packages were offered as a proactive method to ensure the university's financial health," Allen said. "We need to balance our budget and there is no secret that fewer people are going to law school around the country. We are taking steps to keep our finances in balance and this was one of those steps."

The administration is also considering making cuts to an intensive trial advocacy program which relies on paying the costs to fly-in guest instructors from all over the country.

Continue reading at the Delaware Law Weekly here.

Hat tip to the TaxProf Blog.

(jbl).

June 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Plaintiff in Lemon v. Kurtzman Passes Away

 Those of us who sometimes entangle ourselves in church-state cases are all too familiar with Lemon v. Kurtzman and the “Lemon test” that it generated. Word now comes that Alton Lemon has passed on.

Alton T. Lemon, the lead plaintiff in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case setting a key test for evaluating the constitutionality of government aid to religious schools, has died, according to published reports.

Lemon was an activist who helped challenge a 1968 Pennsylvania law that authorized state reimbursement of nonpublic schools, including religious schools, for "secular" services such as teachers' salaries, textbooks, and other instructional materials.

He was 84 and suffered from Alzheimer's disease, according to his obituary in The New York Times. He died May 4 in Jenkintown, Pa.

In its 1971 decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman, the high court struck down the Pennsylvania program, along with a similar Rhode Island program in a consolidated case, as resulting in an excessive entanglement between government and religion in violation of the First Amendment's prohibition against government establishment of religion.

The entanglement stemmed from the state oversight necessary to ensure that only secular expenses of a religious school be reimbursed, such as a continuing need by government auditors to inspect the church school's finances, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger said in the majority opinion of the 7-1 decision.

You can read more here.

(ljs)

June 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dr. Robert Cialdini on the six principles of effective persuasion

Many are familiar with Dr. Cialdini as the author of the bestselling  Influence:  The Psychology of Persuasion.  Dr. Cialdini recently sat down for an interview with the Business Insider during which he summarized his research on persuasive techniques into six guiding principles.  They include:

  1. Reciprocity - It’s the principle that suggests that people give back to you the kind of treatment that they’ve received from you. If you do something first, by giving them an item of value, a piece of information, or a positive attitude, it will all come back to you. The key is to go first.
  2. Consistency - People will feel a desire to comply with a request if they see that it’s consistent with what they’ve publicly committed themselves to in your presence. The implication there is to ask people to state their priorities, their commitments, the features of the situation that they think are most important, and then align your requests or proposals with those things. The rule for consistency will cause them to want to say yes to what they’ve already told you that they will do or what they do value.
  3. Social Proof - People will be likely to say yes to your request if you give them evidence that people just like them have been saying yes to it, too.
  4. Liking - No surprise that people prefer to say yes to a request to the degree that they know and like the requester. No surprise, but at the same time it’s a simple way to make things happen in your direction is to uncover genuine similarities or parallels that exist between you and the person you want to influence, and then raise them to the surface. That increases rapport.
  5. Authority - Authority refers to the tendency of people to be persuaded in your direction when they see you as having knowledge and credibility on the topic. What’s interesting is how many people fail to properly inform their audience of their genuine credentials before launching into an influence attempt. It’s a big mistake.
  6. Scarcity - People will try to seize those opportunities that you offer them that are rare or scarce, dwindling in availability. That’s an important reminder that we need to differentiate what we have to offer that is different from our rivals or competitors. That way we can tell people honestly, “You can only get this aspect, or this feature, or this combination of advantages by moving in the direction that I’m recommending.”
Continue reading here to find out what Dr. Cialdini says is the most common mistake people make when they are trying to influence another as well as the full text of his interview with the Business Insider.

(jbl).

June 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Canadian Courts May Cut and Paste Their Opinions

[The  Canadian Supreme Court] upheld portions of a $4-million award in a medical malpractice lawsuit, concluding the trial judge had not tainted his reasoning by importing large portions of the plaintiff’s written arguments. . . .

The decision provided an emphatic response to an increasingly contentious issue in the legal world – material from other sources that is pasted into decisions. Concern is rising at all levels of courts about passages copied from other documents and decisions, often without a trace of attribution.

The B.C. Court of Appeal had earlier reversed the finding in the malpractice lawsuit largely because the trial judge copied, and failed to attribute, significant portions from the plaintiff’s closing arguments.

The high court stated that judges may incorporate external material into decisions provided they have applied themselves diligently to the legal issues in the case.

You can read more here.

The issue surprises me. Long ago, in my law school days, a fellow student discovered that a judge had incorporated a large part of the student’s law review note into an opinion without giving credit. We thought this bad manners, but otherwise no big deal.

(ljs)

 

 

June 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Disturbing Article on Lawyer Suicides

There is a disturbing article on a rash of lawyer suicides in my hometown paper, the Courier Journal.  You can find the article here.

(Scott Fruehwald)

June 3, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Beyond Skills Training, Revisited: Spiraling the Pyramid of Clinical Education"

This article is by Professor Carolyn Grose (William Mitchell) and available at 19 Clinical L. Rev. 489  (2013) and SSRN here.  From the abstract:

As I engaged in the planning process for the 2011 AALS Clinical Conference, and also in the work of curricular reform at my own law school, I found myself spiraling around questions about the essence of clinical pedagogy. What is it? What are its goals? What are its methods? Which, if any, of these goals and methods are unique to what has come to be considered “pure” clinical pedagogy, and therefore best (if not exclusively) used in “pure” clinical courses?

My journey up the spiral forms the basis for this article. Part One explores what consensus exists about the goals and methods of clinical pedagogy. Part Two describes my own pedagogy in a traditional “doctrinal” course (Estates and Trusts), identifying my dominant goals and methods and their overlap with those identified in Part One as “clinical.” Part Three identifies those goals and methods that remain “purely” clinical – those that really cannot be used effectively in anything but a traditional clinic course. And the piece concludes with proposed answers to the questions raised above, and a description of what this analysis might mean for the future of clinical pedagogy and the broader law school curriculum.

(jbl).

June 3, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Writing Tips from the Original “Mad Man”

David Ogilvy was the iconic advertising executive. His “Confessions of an Advertising Man” remains a classic. In 1982, he offered this advice on writing to his employees. Much of the advice applies to legal writers.

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

David

Thnx to Brain Pickings.

(ljs)

 

June 3, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

List of schools doing the best job teaching students law practice technology skills

This is about which schools are teaching students how to use technology to practice law, not about teaching students the legal issues connected to technology use.  From the Lawyering Blog with a hat tip to the Law Librarian Blog for compiling the list of thirteen schools that were deemed to be doing the best job at imparting these skills.

13 Top Law Schools Teaching Law Practice Technology

The eLawyering Task Force of the Law Practice Management Section of the ABA was created in 2000 . . . .

By "law practice technology" the Task Force does not mean technology and law courses such as Intellectual property courses, patent law courses, courses in copyright, etc.

Instead the Task Force means the intersection of internet technologies and the practice of law.  It is no longer possible to teach law practice management without taking into account the impact of information technology on law practice. We include within this category courses that train law students in document automation, legal expert systems, and other course work that has an impact on the nature, productivity and profitability of law firms.

The Task members believe that to educate law students to be "practice ready",  particularly for law schools where the majority of graduates will end up in solo and small law firm practice, understanding the principles of law practice technology are essential.

. . . .

The criteria for inclusion on the list is:

 

1. A full-time faculty member dedicated to teaching and coordinating a program in law practice technology.  This subject matter should be the focus of serious research, including the development of innovations in law practice.

2. At least two credit courses in this subject matter such as law practice management, law practice technology, ediscovery and big data, outcome prediction,  legal project management, virtual lawyering,  expert legal systems development, document automation, and/or other coursework which deal with innovation in the delivery of legal services and law practice.

3. Non-credit courses taught by adjunct instructors don't quality.

4. Law schools sponsoring incubator programs are interesting, but these programs involve lawyers who have already graduated, not law students.

And the top schools are (in alphabetical order):

  • Brigham Young University Law School
  • Chicago Kent Law School
  • Columbia University School of Law
  • Georgetown Law School
  • Indiana University Maurer School of Law 
  • Michigan State Law School
  • New York Law School
  • Stanford Law School
  • Suffolk Law School
  • University of Miami Law School
  • University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
  • Vermont Law School

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

June 2, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Should Law Schools Have “Intruder Drills”

In the wake of violent intruders in schools, for example, the intruder in the Newtown school tragedy, some states are starting to require schools to prepare for the worst by holding mock intruder drills.

• In April, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, signed a measure that requires additional "intruder" drills in schools and speeds up the deadline for when schools must conduct their first fire drills each school year.

• Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, also a Republican, approved a bill in March to add two lockdown drills to the slate of safety exercises schools already conduct.

• Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, approved legislation in April that requires four annual lockdown drills instead of one in Washington state schools, plus an additional drill of schools' choice.

Proposals whose fates were undecided as of last week include a Missouri bill that would require all school personnel to participate in simulated active-shooter and intruder-response drills conducted by law enforcement.

A Louisiana bill still being considered would require principals to review their crisis-management plans and response every year, and consider the thoughts of students, parents, teachers, other school employees, community leaders, and public safety officials.

An Illinois bill that Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has indicated he would support would require shooting drills at all schools.

The question arises whether the drills would help prevent harm when and if an actual intruder threatens a school. You can read more here at Education Week..

 Should law schools look into this procedure? Law schools do not test potential students for emotional stability, and colleges often don’t pass on their information about questionable students. Questionable students then enter the law school world where high levels of stress are often prevalent and disappointment with grades can trigger violent conduct.

(ljs)

June 2, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)