Saturday, August 10, 2013

Teaching Creative Thinking

Teaching Creative Thinking

The Globe and Mail asked four of Canada’s acknowledged thought leaders this
question: ‘If you were a guest professor at a business school, how would you teach creative
thinking to the students?’ Here are their answers:

Teach risk-thinking

Focus on opportunity, not the problem

Get outside your comfort zone

Always think human

The full article is worth reading.

(ljs)

August 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tips for becoming a better conversationalist

Whether its law students trying to hone their networking skills in hopes of landing a job or new attorneys trying to corral more clients, who doesn't need some advice on how to more effectively work a crowded room of strangers. This post from attorney@work discusses a book called The Manager's Phrase Book, written by - of all people - a developer of videogames like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption  - that provides pages of conversations starters that really work. 

Some people always know exactly what to say. When words fail the rest of us, these people deliver the smooth segue, the clever comeback, the perfect parting shot. How do they do it so effortlessly? Maybe they’ve taken a page from Patrick Alain. In The Manager’s Phrase Book, Alain has collected thousands of ready-to-use conversation starters, questions, admonitions, motivators—and some put-downs—aimed at helping you communicate more confidently.

You might scoff at the idea of using canned phrases, but who couldn’t use a little communications coaching when searching for the right thing to say—especially when it’s a personal issue, or you have to deal with someone’s bad behavior? And Alain isn’t suggesting you use the phrases verbatim, necessarily (though you’ve surely heard them). Some are cheesy and ridiculous. Some are hilarious. You’ll catch yourself thinking, “I would never say that, but I might say this….” And that’s the point. Alain advises practicing your own go-to phrases until it feels natural, so you can take command instead of constantly stumbling over your words.

Continue reading here.

(jbl)

August 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on the alleged faculty cuts at Florida Coastal School of Law

Back in July, a Jacksonville newspaper reported that Florida Coastal School of Law had laid-off staff members due to declining enrollment.  Paul Campos then reported that faculty were also included in the lay-offs (here and here) though the school's Dean denied it in a message posted at Lawyers, Guns & Money.  Today Campos has a follow-up post in which he says he has confirmed that the faculty has been downsized by fourteen, twelve of whom took a severance package and two who refused it and instead are now planning to sue the school.  Click here for the full post.

(jbl).

August 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Strategic Flirtation" to Get Ahead: Does it Work for Female Lawyers?

Not really, according to a recent study. Here are excerpts from a recent article from the ABA
Journal:

“Strategic flirtation” is more common at law firms with stereotypical masculine cultures that emphasize competition, ambition and assertiveness, according to a survey of 281 female
lawyers.

The more masculine the culture, the more strategic flirting takes place, the study found. Yet, masculine cultures were less forgiving of flirts than feminine cultures. The Washington Post,

The survey respondents, who worked at 38 law firms in the southeastern United States, were asked how often they engaged in “socio-sexual” behaviors to get ahead with questions such as “I
smile flirtatiously at certain men at work” or “I sometimes try to play dumb or act like I need help from a male at work.” The lawyers were also asked to describe firm culture.

Masculine environments expose women who do flirt “to a lot of hurtful slights, like being treated rudely or as if they were stupid or being excluded from meetings," Smith told Business
News Daily.

Another study co-author, University of Utah business ethics professor Arthur Brief, told Quartz that
previous research has found that those who “who engage in sexual displays to get ahead” earn less and receive fewer promotions.

(ljs)

August 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Whittier Law School will launch new experiential legal training program this fall

The program is called "Experience the Law" and what makes it unique, according to the school's website, is that students will receive practical skills training from the very first day of law school rather than having to wait until the second or third year as is the case at most other law schools.  Further, more than half of the school's required course units will involve some form of practical skills training which means bringing into the classroom the sort of practical legal experiences students normally don't encounter unless they participate in a clinical program.  From the school's website

Whittier Law School has just approved an innovative new curriculum called “Experience the Law” in which students develop practical skills integrated with legal knowledge starting from the first day of law school. In fact, 29 units — more than half of the curriculum’s 56 required units — will integrate experiential learning. Students also may take additional experiential courses to satisfy the 89 units required for graduation. A pilot version of the program will begin in 2013-2014, with full implementation in fall 2014.

“Whittier Law School’s program is unique,” says Pritikin. “While other schools offer experiential learning in the second or third year, we begin their first year of law school. In addition, we integrate experiential learning into the classroom, so students learn concepts and then immediately put them into practice. While many schools rely on clinics or externships for experiential learning, we provide a more comprehensive approach.”

. . . .

“Our top priority is to graduate students who are fully prepared with the knowledge, skills and professionalism needed to successfully practice law,” says Penelope Bryan, Dean of Whittier Law School. “Our ‘Experience the Law’ curriculum gives our students three full years of experience that will differentiate them in the profession.”

Hat tip to the preLaw blog.

(jbl).

August 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is the LSAT to Blame for the Dearth of Minorities?

From the National Law Journal:

Advocates for diversity in the legal profession have long identified the Law School Admission Test as a major barrier to black and Hispanic law school applicants because on average they score lower than do whites and Asians-Americans.

The blame is misplaced, University of Virginia School of Law professor Alex Johnson, Jr. argues in an article titled “Knots in the Pipeline for Prospective Lawyers of Color: The LSAT Is Not the Problem and Affirmative Action Is Not the Answer.” It appears in the latest edition of the Stanford Law & Policy Review.

The real reason why minorities are underrepresented in the
legal profession is because they tend to “misapply” to law schools that are
unlikely to admit them to due to their grades and LSAT scores, and because a
disproportionate percentage of minority law grads take the bar exam in states
with the toughest pass cutoffs, Johnson writes.

“Prospective law students should apply to law schools that
they have a reasonable chance of being admitted to and there should be a
national bar exam,” Johnson said in an interview. “If these things happen, we
should have a more diverse profession. The test is not the problem because
there literally is a law school for everyone.”

Not everyone agrees with Professor Johnson’s analysis. You
can read more here.

(ljs)

August 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Social Justice Collaborations Workshop: Deadline Extended to Oct. 7

We are happy to announce that, just before the LWI Conference in
Philadelphia in June 2014, a one-day workshop on Social Justice Collaborations
in the Legal Writing Curriculum
will take place in Philadelphia. The new deadline for submitting proposals is October 7, 2013.

 Workshop Description

This free one-day workshop will explore how legal writing faculty
can collaborate with clinics, non-profits, and pro bono projects to expand
experiential learning opportunities for students by bringing social justice
practice experience into legal writing teaching.

Many legal writing faculty expand skills training by creating
partnerships with public interest organizations, clinics, pro bono programs,
and externships. The workshop will be a forum for discussion of specific
collaborations that workshop participants have undertaken or hope to launch.
The projects can be full-blown courses, short-term collaborations on discrete
projects, incremental collaborations among faculty, or ideas for future
partnerships. They can take place within the required legal writing curriculum,
in upper-division courses, or in conjunction with pro bono, externship, or
clinical programs.

The workshop will provide a platform for sharing ideas and
continuing to develop a community around enriching students’ educational
experiences through public interest collaborations that offer opportunities for
experiential learning. 

Who Should Come

Legal writing professors, clinicians, externship directors, and
pro bono project directors.

 When and Where

June 29, 2014 from approximately 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Drexel
Law School in Philadelphia (Drexel University Earl Mack School of Law). This conference
will occur immediately prior to the start of the 2014 Legal Writing Institute
Conference, which will also be held in Philadelphia beginning later that
evening. Participants in the workshop will need to pay for their own travel and
lodging, but we will provide food during this free workshop.

 Signed,

The organizing committee: Amy Vorenberg (University of New
Hampshire); Mary Bowman (Seattle University); Jennifer Rosa (Michigan State);
Kirsten Clement and Karen Millard (Florida Coastal); Jennifer Hill (University
of Miami); Stephanie Hartung (Suffolk); Susan Wawrose (University of Dayton);
Aliza Kaplan (Lewis and Clark); Sara Rankin (Seattle University); and Sarah
Ricks (Visiting, Penn, Rutgers-Camden)

For more information, please contact one of the signers.

 

August 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best Proposal I Have Heard in a Long Time

As regular readers of this blog know, I have long lamented the pernicious influence that the U.S. News law rankings have had on legal education.  Now, Brian Leiter has a simple solution to the problem of U.S. News's hold on law schools.

"Since the theme of both the WP and my commentary on it has been 'deregulation in the service of experimentation,' let me conclude with a suggestion about how ABA regulation could make a constructive contribution:  the ABA should prohibit all member law schools from participating in 'evaluation' exercises by profit-making organizations, such as U.S. News.   U.S. News comes in for some appropriate criticism in the WP, though perhaps not enough.  The misleading and fraudulent employment data reported by law schools that I've written about for more than a decade was all brought about by U.S. News (which created an incentive to massage the numbers); U.S. News also creates the idiotic incentive to spend as much as possible, without regard to efficiency.   If the ABA were to bring about an end to the U.S. News 'reign of terror' it would, immediately, eliminate the worst incentive in legal education--one that trumps 'law school culture' and 'market insulation.'  By getting the idiotic U.S. News rankings out of the picture, the ABA would also make it easier for new and innovative models of legal education to flourish."

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Recent survey of pre-law students finds that nearly 80% want legal education to be more practical

That's according to a survey in June of 750 prospective law students who took Kaplan Test Prep's LSAT course.  The same survey also showed that more than half of those students contemplating law school plan to use their J.D. in a "non-traditional" legal field.  The National Jurist's preLaw blog has the story:

Pre-law students want legal education to change

The vast majority of prospective law students — 79 percent — believe law schools need to make changes to better prepare students to practice in the current employment market, according to a survey by Kaplan Test Prep.

“We think these results are showing students are indeed being much more introspective about their decision to go,” said Jeff Thomas, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of pre-law programs. “They’re making the decision to go to law school very purposefully and deliberately after doing the research, and students are recognizing, ‘listen, I want to go to law school but once I get there it’s got to be different than what the kids that went five years ago did.’”

. . . .

The survey also shows that more students are considering non-traditional employment — 56 percent plan to use their future law school degree in a non-traditional legal field. That is up from 50 percent in February.

“This is a continual evolution where we’re seeing greater and greater and greater numbers of students who are thinking that big law private practice is not necessarily the right fit for them from the get-go,” Thomas said.

. . . .

Kaplan surveyed 750 students who recently took a LSAT Kaplan Prep Course. The online survey was conducted in June 2013. Kaplan, which routinely surveys pre-law students, offered the surveys to help pre-law students understand the challenging landscape that law students face.

Click here to read the full article.

(jbl).

August 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another Reason for the Bad Job Market

From the TaxProfBlog (August 5)

Between 1980 and 2005, the median age of
lawyers increased from 39 to 49. ... The number of lawyers [in
California] between 55 and 75 has swelled in 2012 far
beyond the numbers in 2003. ...

Anderson
That means that the reported oversupply of lawyers may well result from
demographic factors, rather than permanent changes in the legal market.
The demographic factors, in turn, probably result from a combination of
lawyers waiting longer to retire because of 401(k) accounts decimated
during the financial crisis together with the "bulge" of baby boomers
working their way through the system.

If this demographic pattern is responsible for displacing jobs for
young law graduates, it would seem to be good news for recent and
prospective law school graduates, albeit good news that may take some
years to materialize.

(ljs)

August 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Important New Book on Law Teaching

Michael Hunter Schwartz, Gerald F. Hess, & Sophie S. Sparrow have just published a new book on legal education--What the Best Law Teachers Do.

According to an article on Inside Higher Ed, "a new book by seasoned scholars of law pedagogy highlights what law professors around the country are doing right."  "What the Best Law Teachers Do, out this month from Harvard University Press, is based on a national qualitative study of 26 law professors nominated as “the best” by their peers and students."

The article continues, "The best law professors set equally high standards for themselves. They expend considerable effort in preparing for class, even after teaching a course for many years. Whatever their method of teaching – Socratic, small groups, class discussions – they’ve mastered it (in fact, most use a combination of these techniques). They also plan extensive ongoing and final assessments, which students frequently remember as some of the hardest of their law school years, but always test what they teach."

One of the authors, Gerald Hess stated, "This book instead was about doing in-depth, empirical, qualitative research about what leads to exceptional learning in law school. It was about gathering data and seeing what emerged from the data."  He added, “The biggest take-away is that the best law teachers have an incredible commitment to student learning and student success,” he said. “Seeing how that translated into students’ commitment to their own learning, it’s very obvious to students, I think, when teachers care deeply about them.”  "Hess also said the professors are linked by a vigorous work ethic – one that challenges some of the assertions about law professors that have been made of late."

From the book description: "What makes a great law professor? The first study of its kind, What the Best Law Teachers Do identifies the methods, strategies, and personal traits of professors whose students achieve exceptional learning. This pioneering book will be of interest to any instructor seeking concrete, proven techniques for helping students succeed.

 What the Best Law Teachers Do introduces readers to twenty-six professors from law schools across the United States. These instructors are renowned for their exacting standards: they set expectations high, while also making course requirements--and their belief that their students can meet them--clear from the outset. They demonstrate professional behavior and tell students to approach class as they would their future professional life: by being as prepared, polished, and gracious as possible. And they prepare themselves for class in depth, even when they have taught the course for years."

(Scott Fruehwald) (hat tip: Stephanie West Allen) 

August 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education: Working Paper Criticisms

The ABA Task Force Working Paper is a thoroughly thought out document, which contains many insightful observations and important recommendations.  However, it also contains several recommendations that I think should not be implemented.

A. The Task Force states that the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar should consider modifying Standard 306 (relating to distance education).   I strongly oppose this recommendation.  The idea behind this recommendation is that distance education could allow one professor to reach more students, thus lowering the cost of instruction.  However, this would also significantly lower the quality of the learning process.  General education studies have shown that effective education requires interaction between the students and professor.  Otherwise, the students will not be engaged in the class, and they will learn much less.  Also, students learn more when they apply what they know.

A Columbia University study showed that "students who took online courses were more likely to fail or drop out of the course than students who took the same course in person. Moreover, those students with the most Web credits were the least likely to graduate."  (here)  Another writer has declared, "In spite of all the hype about interactivity, "lecturing" a la MOOCs merely extends the cliché of the static, one-sided lecture hall, where distance learning begins after the first row."   (here)  Finally, San Jose State University recently suspended its distance learning courses because more than half the students flunked.  (here)   Comments from this article:

1. "The hype originates mostly from educational start-ups backed by millions of dollars in venture capital. Udacity, which was founded by Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford professor and Google fellow who says his goal is to bring "the very best of higher education to everyone worldwide," launched last year with $20 million in venture funds. Its closest rival, Coursera, also founded by Stanford faculty members, has collected $65 million in backing so far, including a chunk from the World Bank.  So it's not surprising that the services these firms offer resemble the product of a business model more than an educational model. More to the point, critics say, it's a Silicon Valley business model."

2. "They think the distribution of information that they're part of is the same as education, and that's just not true," says Christopher Newfield, an English professor at UC Santa Barbara who has been tracking the spread of the online learning mania. "Learning is not the same as watching TV or playing video games."

3.  "Having a scholar teach and engage his or her own students in person is far superior to having those students watch a video of another scholar engaging his or her own students," the professors wrote. They pointed to the risk that the edX model would lead to two classes of universities: a top tier "in which privileged students get their own real professor; the other, financially stressed private and public universities in which students watch a bunch of video-taped lectures and interact with a glorified teaching assistant."

4.  "Moreover, if university administrators think the online model will allow them to save money, say, by employing fewer or less-qualified teachers, without sacrificing the quality of the education they provide, they've been hoodwinked.  That's the danger of believing promises of a pedagogical revolution when they're purveyed by companies with something to sell."

B. The Task Force states that the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar should consider modifying Standard 403 (relating to proportion of courses taught by  full-time faculty).  Adjuncts have been a valuable resource in legal education.  However, they are a supplement to what full-time professors do.  Students need full-time professors who are professional educators who know how to teach.  Not only are adjuncts not teachers, they cannot devote the time necessary to properly teach professional students.  Our law students are paying high tuition for full-time teachers, and they should get what they pay for. 

C. The Task Force states that the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar should consider modifying Standard 304(c) (requiring that the J.D. program be completed no earlier than 24 months after commencement of law study).  Education requires reflection, and trying to cram law school in to as little time as possible does not engender reflection. 

D. State regulators of Lawyers and Law Practice should Seriously Consider Proposals to Reduce the Amount of Law Study Required for Persons to be Eligible to Sit for a Bar Examination or be Admitted to Practice.  As I have written before in detail (here), many students are coming out of law school  significantly unprepared to practice.  Reducing law school to two years would only make this problem worse.

E. State regulators of Lawyers and Law Practice should Reduce the Number of Subjects Tested on Bar Examinations.  Instead, licensing authorities should change the bar exam so that it actually tests for the knowledge and skills lawyers need in practice.

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New online classroom tool launches this fall to help law professors mix theory with practice

It's an online course tool called LegalED developed by Villanova Law Professor Michele Pistone that she will be using in her immigration law clinic this fall and will also be in use at other law schools around the country including American, Michigan State and the University of Utah.  According to the blog InformationWeek, Professor Pistone's platform blends video lectures that students watch prior to class with in-class exercises that involve the practical application of the theory discussed in those lectures.  It also enables participating professors to share classroom ideas, assessment tools and exercises among other resources. Here's a further description from IW:

A longtime criticism of law schools has been that although graduates are well-versed in legal analysis and reason, they lack the practical skills and professional values required of lawyers. It has long been common practice for associates to learn these skills during post-graduate jobs, with their professional educations paid for by their clients.

. . . .

Law professors must now alter their instruction to provide students with a more well-rounded education that includes the skills and behavior integral to the practice of law.

"The way I see the future of legal education is primarily one that involves blended learning," Pistone said in an interview.

If professors upload lecture videos online, she explained, there will be more time in class for students to collaborate, reinforce concepts and learn basic competencies that will help them become successful lawyers. Pistone embraces blended learning and offers practice-oriented lessons in her immigration law clinic. Her students use online videos as learning and reference tools as they apply legal doctrine to real-life cases.

Pistone illustrated the deficiency in practical law instruction with an explanation of how contracts are typically taught. Students learn contract doctrine in class, she said, but many never read a legitimate contract until after graduation. If professors were to make doctrine-related resources available online, students could read and draft contracts in class to better prepare for professional jobs.

. . . .

Pistone founded LegalED to inspire professors to experiment with blended instruction. As they include online resources in their curricula, instructors can share innovative teaching methods, access in-class exercises and assessment tools, and upload videos. Students who use LegalED will learn through video lectures that explain legal concepts.

Continue reading here.

Hat tip to Leigh Goodmark.

(jbl).

August 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

In Memoriam: Julius Chambers, Civil Rights Lawyer

Julius Chambers has passed on. The civil rights leaders
argued both Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and Board of
Education v. Dowell, He also headed the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. From
Education Week:

Julius L. Chambers, a pioneering civil rights lawyer who helped argue the
landmark case in the U.S. Supreme Court that first upheld busing for school
desegregation, has died. He was 76 when he died on Aug. 2 in North Carolina
after an unspecified long illness, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and
Educational Fund.

Chambers was one of the LDF's first interns and in 1984 became its third
president and director-counsel, following Thurgood Marshall and Jack Greenberg.
The LDF began as the legal department of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, but spun off as a separate organization in 1957.

Chambers was born in Mount Gilead, N.C., in 1936. When his father could not
afford to allow him to follow his older siblings to the Laurinberg Institute, a
private school for black students, Chambers rode a bus 12 miles each day to an
all-black public high school in Troy, N.C.

You can read more here.

(ljs)

 

August 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Legal sector adds 2,800 jobs in July

Based on last Friday's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics courtesy of the AmLaw Daily.  There's more encouraging news, relatively speaking, in that the BLS revised the figures from May and June to reflect fewer legal sector job losses than originally estimated - 2,100 instead of 2,900 and 2,700 instead of 3,600, respectively.  The AmLaw Daily further reports that since April, when the legal sector employed 1.129 million people - the highest number total since 2009 - it has suffered a net loss of 2,000 jobs.

(jbl).

August 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Facebook Follies

From the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania:

Social media continues to be a minefield where lawyers encounter ethics issues of types not seen in the traditional practice of law.

Aaron Brockler, an Ohio prosecutor, was fired after it was revealed that he
posed as an ex-girlfriend of a defendant in a Facebook chat with an alibi
witness, attempting to persuade her to change her testimony. He spoke to both
women the next day, without revealing what he had done, and they both changed
their stories. The ruse came to light when another prosecutor who handled the
file while Brockler was on medical leave discovered transcripts of the chats in
the file, and contacted Brockler to find out what the transcripts represented.
When Brockler informed the colleague that he was the actor in the transcripts,
his colleague reported the conduct to supervisors, who transferred the case to the
Ohio Attorney General’s office and began the process that led to Brockler’s
dismissal.

Virginia lawyer Daniel J.
Miller faces a defamation lawsuit after he posted an unflattering
picture of a criminal defendant on Facebook, with an off-color and derogatory
joke about another attorney who was representing the client. Miller’s counsel
claims the comment was just “some good-natured jesting with a colleague,” but
the subject of the jest disagrees and is seeking damages for harm to his
reputation. The incident also led the court to impose new restrictions on the
use of cellphones by attorneys and others allowed to bring such devices into
the courtroom, a privilege denied the general public.

 

(ljs)

August 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

ABA Task Force: Working Paper: Changing the Culture of Law Schools

A major conclusion of the Working Paper of the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education is "There Should be Clear Recognition that Law Schools Exist to Teach People to Provide Law-Related Services." 

Related to this conclusion is the fact that "Law schools’ culture is at the root of an enormous number of current conditions and changing it is key to many solutions."  The Paper notes that "culture cannot be changed through prescription. It can only change over an extended period, primarily by influencing attitudes and behaviors to create a positively reinforcing cycle."

The Paper sets a tone of cooperation and understanding: "The Task Force has resolved these challenges by structuring the Working Paper as a field manual for people of good faith who wish to improve legal education as a public and private good."  I am sure that this sentence reminds many of Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail.   The authors add, "Moralizing and blaming are not productive.  What is needed instead is a dispassionate and pragmatic examination of the current situation that begins with a presumption of good faith on the part of all participants."

Turning specifically to culture, the Paper defines culture as "the cluster of beliefs and practices of a group that is passed on through social behavior."  The authors point out that "Cultures tend to be stable and not easily changed" because people are generally risk adverse.  

The Paper characterizes current law school culture as

"1. A professorial position should involve long-term security, and tenure means very strong and indefinite security.

2. Scholarship is an essential aspect of faculty role.

3. Faculty members are materially different from non-faculty members of the law school.

4. Faculty have decision-making authority for key aspects of the law school.

5. Status is important in measuring individual and institutional success."

The writers declare "A law school’s successful embrace of solutions to the challenges, problems, and demands described in this Working Paper requires a reorientation of attitudes toward change by persons within the law school. Yet this kind of broad based change in attitude is not one that can be achieved easily or quickly."

The Paper suggests changing law school culture by 1. new or strengthened requirements, 2. eliminated or lessened requirements, 3. incentives, 4. facilitation, 5. coordination, 6. enablement or empowerment, 7. pilots, experiments, and examples, and 8. encouragement.  The Paper "recommends that universities and law faculties move to reconfigure faculty role and promote change in faculty culture, so as to support whatever choices they make to adapt to the changing environment in legal education."  In particular, "these changes may relate to accountability for outcomes; scope of decisionmaking authority; responsibilities for teaching, internal service, external service, and scholarly work; career expectations; modes of compensation; interdependence; scope of the category "faculty" and internal classifications within that category; and a host of other factors."  The Paper recommends that faculty members: "1. Become Informed About the Subjects Addressed in This Working Paper, in Order to Play an Effective Role in the Improvement of Legal Education at the Faculty Member’s School and 2. Individually and as Part of a Faculty, Reduce the Role Given to Status as a Measure of Personal and Institutional Success."

The Working Paper has said a great deal about changing law school culture.  However, because of the complexity of the problems the task force was dealing with and time constraints there is more to say about changing law school culture.

This blog has previously noted that current law school culture has its roots in the "Langdellian Bargain"--the system of legal education created by Christopher Columbus Langdell in the nineteenth century.  (here, here)  Quoting from the first post:

Richard Neumann has added a novel concept to the causes of legal education’s problems, which he calls the "Langdellian Bargain." In Comparative Histories of Professional Education: Osler, Langdell, and the Atelier, he traces the origins of law schools’ current structure back to the very beginning of modern legal education in the nineteenth century at Harvard. Part of Langdell’s revolutionary approach to legal education was "that masses of students could be taught law economically in large classes, and the result would be professional learning because students in a Socratic class would do more than passively receive information, as in a lecture. The only substantial investment in such an enterprise would be the library. Personnel costs would be low compared with revenue because of the large number of students in each teacher’s classroom. Teaching would be so financially efficient that a profit could be generated each year." While the profits were originally kept by the law school, today they are shared by the university and the law school.

This bargain assured the law school’s security within the university structure. Neumann notes that "Among the benefits of the bargain to the faculty are leniency, compared with other parts of a university, in teaching requirements measured by the time needed to teach casebook courses, freeing up a substantial amount of faculty time for scholarship that is supported, for the most part, by tuition money." Similarly, he states, "The Langdellian bargain settled the financial arrangements through which legal education would enter universities. Large numbers of students would be taught, with little capital investment, and in most years law school revenues would exceed teaching expenses. That would provide resources for faculty to do scholarship on whatever subjects interest them."

 Neumann makes the following key point: "Whenever change is proposed in legal education, the threshold question is whether it would be consistent with the Langdellian bargain. If the proposal would significantly reallocate resources — either within the law school or between the law school and the university — in a way that would alter the bargain, the proposal fails because no one will voluntarily give up what the bargain has provided." In other words, resistance to change has become institutionalized in law schools!

The first thing law schools and faculties must do to change law school culture is to recognize the most important role of law schools--to educate law students so that they can serve clients and society.  If law schools and their professors truly acknowledged this role for law schools change would come easily.

Second, law professors need to familiarize themselves with the new insights on how students learn from both inside and outside law school research.  I suggest beginning with Susan A. Ambrose et.al., How Learning Works (Jossey-Bass 2010).  Reading this book and similar materials shows that our current methods of law school teaching are very out-of-date.

Finally, change in law school culture may come easier from the bottom up.  Law professors who make innovations in their teaching can serve as examples for their colleagues.  Such individual innovations are discussed on the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Website.  In addition, individual professors can develop materials (texts) that can be used by others and that contain innovative approaches to teaching.  Professors will be less reluctant to adopt new teaching methods when they have materials to work with. 

Making changes to law school culture has been done at several law schools.  David M. Moss and Deborah Moss Curtis have edited a book, Reforming Education: Law Schools at the Crossroads (2012), which discusses how several law schools have brought about changes in delivery of legal education.

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top tips for on-campus interview season

On-campus interview season at law schools across the country is about to start in a few weeks so Vivia Chen over at the Careerist Blog has compiled the top tips she's been able to find for students seeking an edge on the competition.  Click here and you too can ace your job interviews during this fall's OCI season.

A big hat tip to Grover Cleveland (yes-that's-his-real-name) author of  Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: The Essential Guide to Thriving as a New Lawyer  for the link.

(jbl).

August 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Florida Court Applies "Stand Your Ground" to School Children Fight

During the coming school year, we may see a number of Legal Writing problems dealing with “stand your ground”statutes. Here is a peculiar case:

On Wednesday, the 4th District Court of Appeals in Florida heavily
criticized Broward Circuit Judge Elijah Williams for not allowing a defendant
in a fight between schoolchildren, to claim the defense of the “Stand Your Ground”
law.

In the instant case, a middle school student identified in court records as T.P.
got into a fistfight with a girl on a school bus belonging to the Broward
County. T.P. was accused of battery, convicted and sentenced as a juvenile.

According to court records, T.P. and the girl, identified as A.F. were on the same bus
when they had a fight. The school bus driver testified the girl grabbed the
boy’s jacket, punched him and pulled him down on a seat before the boy tried to
fight back. 

The boy was sentenced. The girl testified that the boy attacked her without
provocation. Broward Circuit Judge Elijah Williams did not allow the defense of
the “Stand Your Ground” law to T.P., because according to him, the boy was not
protecting his home or vehicle. 

The appeals court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial instructing
Williams to consider that the boy could invoke the protection of “Stand Your
Ground.”

You can read more here.

(ljs)

August 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Professor Lucy Jewel on the Influence of the Scam Blog Movement

The scam blog movement has had a significant influence on legal education and the legal profession over the last few years.  While most commentators find that its influence has been harmful, it has had some positive effects, such as creating greater transparency.  Now, Professor Lucy Jewel has written an article that thoroughly investigates the influence of the scam blog movement.

You're Doing it Wrong: How the Anti-Law School Scam Blogging Movement Can Shape the Legal Profession

Abstract: One of the biggest social advancements that the Internet has given us is the capacity for an individual’s idea to reach a mass audience. Internet-based communication forms, particularly blogs, enable an idea to gain credence without the involvement of traditional mass media outlets, such as newspapers or television stations. With no “top-down” filter that controls what ideas get disseminated, the Internet can amplify voices speaking from outside the mainstream culture that perhaps would not be heard under the traditional media system. The open network structure of the Internet also allows ideas to reach broad audiences and enables individuals, operating independently, to create communities around ideas in an emergent fashion.

In addition to blogs, anonymity for online speakers and immunized liability for the intermediaries who provide access to Internet forums are two additional forces that have shaped the Internet as a place for the exchange of ideas. The relative anonymity that digital communication affords allows people to critically comment on controversial issues without facing negative career or other reputational consequences that might result if their opinions were voiced non-anonymously. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which limits the liability of Internet service providers and website operators for comments made by ultimate end-users, has encouraged the flow of critical ideas and arguments; a different system, such as a notice and take-down scheme (seen in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 5), might have produced a more restrained and conservative Internet and a less robust exchange of ideas.

Concurrently, the way U.S. law and the Internet’s open structure have expanded public debate of ideas and policy, and a new culture has grown up around the Internet. An optimistic view of Internet culture holds that it is, for the most part, a warm and open culture dedicated to community, collaboration, and open debate. A more negative take on Internet culture is that its default anonymity sometimes creates a race-to-the-bottom mentality, fostering environments where abusive and offensive comments flourish. In addition to forums that discuss important ideas, there are also forums full of racist, misogynistic, and other ad hominem attacks, which read like graffiti on a public bathroom wall. Another cause for concern is Internet culture’s unique approach to norm enforcement. A fairly prevalent practice of online public “shaming” has developed in which Internet mobs fulminate against perceived norm violators and wield frighteningly invasive vigilante-style remedies against them.

In contrast with the ribald and sometimes abusive culture of the Internet, the culture of the legal profession is restrained, deferential, and committed to resolving disputes through formal legal processes. Thus, there is a potential for conflict between the culture of the Internet and the culture of the legal profession. Specifically, normative conflicts are emerging with respect to blogs where lawyers air caustic, uncensored, and highly critical views of the legal profession. This conflict is exemplified by the so-called Law School Scam Blogging Movement (“Scam Blog Movement” or “Scam Bloggers”), a populist online community calling for reform of the way that law schools market themselves to potential law students.

With regard to the Scam Blog Movement, its shock-value approaches to rhetoric would certainly violate the legal profession’s cultural tradition of favoring formal, restrained, and process-oriented debates of legal issues. This Article argues that the good that comes to the profession from Internet culture outweighs the bad. Moreover, the value of the Internet’s information diffusion and community functions should not be discounted. This Article ultimately concludes that the legal profession will be strengthened by the new arguments and ideas entering online from the profession’s sidelines. Thus, we should to a certain extent relax our professional norms and allow these arguments to take shape.

In looking at the story of the Law School Scam Blogging Movement, Part I of this Article explains how the technological structure of the Internet enables ideas to solidify and spread in a way that differs from the way information is expressed in traditional media formats. Part II generally describes the attributes of Internet culture, both the good and bad, and contrasts that culture with the culture of the legal profession. Part III looks at the Scam Blogging Movement and argues that, when non-traditional members of the legal profession use the Internet as a forum to argue for reform, even if they do so in untoward ways, those arguments do impact the profession and should be listened to by all members of the legal profession.

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)