Saturday, February 2, 2013
This comes to us from award winning author and entrepreneur Peter Sims via the Harvard Business Review blog. Sims admits that in the beginning of his public speaker career he sucked - his words - something he's discovered is true of most great public speakers when they first started out. He's gotten much better at it by understanding the importance of speaking with passion, knowing the material cold and knowing his audience. With respect to the latter, Sims recounts a painful story from the beginning of his public speaking career in which he failed to pay enough attention to the needs of his audience and got the feedback to prove it. He learned through experience that devoting time to thinking about and trying to understand the needs of his audience allowed him to relax a bit and focus on connecting with them, rather than purvey information, which took his public speaking skills to the next level.
The best advice I ever received about going "from suck to non-suck" as a public speaker came from former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. Cuomo visited Bowdoin College during my senior year, and I was the student assigned to show him around. Scott Hood, who led Bowdoin's communications office, and I picked the Governor up at the airport in Portland, Maine. Making conversation on the 40 minute drive back to Brunswick, I asked him how he'd become such a good public speaker.
He graciously shared the story about how he started speaking publicly in law school and was a terrible speaker until he started 1) talking about things he believed in passionately, and 2) knew his material extremely well. I now routinely share that advice today, with one addition: know your audience.
Since then, I've heard stories from some of the best speakers around, whether it's Daniel Pink or Malcolm Gladwell or Hillary Clinton, about how they all sucked when they started giving speeches. I know I did — despite getting Governor Cuomo's advice. (Remember what I said about advice being easy to ask for, and hard to implement? Yeah.)
My first paid speech, at the University of Cincinnati, completely bombed. Here is the actual email my speaking agent received after the speech, with names changed to protect identities.
. . . .
Ouch. Damn. That email stung for days, especially since it undermined my already-low confidence in my public speaking abilities right at the start of a big book tour. At first I responded defensively. I'd been going through a difficult time in my life! I did have doubts about the usefulness of my ideas to college students. Of course when I didn't know the answer to a question, I would turn it back around to the students and ask them! How was I supposed to know how they should manage college roommate conflicts?
But once I got past my initial reaction and defensiveness, I knew I had to take this feedback seriously because I had no perspective about how audiences would react to my messages or speaking style. What I learned over time was that, true to Mario Cuomo's advice, the more that I came to really understand my material, such that I got to the point where I wasn't actually thinking about what I was going to say, I started to better connect with audiences. I did use slides to help structure my comments to prevent me from wandering (a challenge I have without some structure), but I stopped putting notes in my slides, or trying to memorize what I was going to say and when. I relied on what was already in my head, and slowly, I got out of my head and into the moment and sharing the insights and learning. It was counterintuitive, but the more I was able to let go of my own ideas and expectations of what the audience wanted or needed, and instead, allowed myself to just improvise, my ratings went up steadily. And as it turned out, my own goofy sense of humor was actually a strength, not a weakness as I had previously thought.
As the audience came to see that I was just being me and trying to share and teach them, quirks and all, they stopped analyzing and judging me, and could just enjoy the moment. That's how I feel at least, noting how the energy in the audience now seems to shift about a quarter or a third of the way into each event. It's an experience for us all, not a lecture. When I can just be me, it gives the audience to just be themselves, and that human experience is what ultimately unlocks and empowers creativity, my ultimate goal. It has taken me thousands of hours of practice — and reams of hard-to-hear feedback — to improve. I'm not sure I've reached the "10,000 Hour Rule" drawn from psychologist Anders Ericsson's research, but I must be getting close.
Continue reading here.
For those old enough to remember the pre-ExpressO days, we recall duplicating our manuscripts and mailing them to a large number of law reviews. Time consuming and expensive, plus providing a great opportunity for acquiring paper cuts. ExpressO has enabled us to email our manuscripts to many law reviews at a very low price.
Now come a rival—Scholastica--which provides a similar service. At this writing, 26 journals have moved to this publishing platform. Here there are. For each submission, Scholastica charges the submitter $5. For journals that receive large numbers of submissions, the price is negotiable.
Scholastica also services other, non-law journals and provides them with managerial services. I don’t know enough about Scholastica to opinionate on its attractiveness to law reviews. I do know that my school’s main law review receives around 2000 submissions each year. At $5 (or a little less) for each submission, the expense to professors and their law schools can multiply.
I hope some users of Scholastica will send us Comments.
I note that perhaps in response to the competition, ExpressO has upgraded:
Author "How To" Video Tutorial:
FAQ for Authors:
ExpressO Guide for Law Review Editors:
Friday, February 1, 2013
North Carolina's Campbell Law School had the state's top bar passage rate in 2012 at 94.53 for first time takers besting in-state competitors like Duke, Wake Forest, and U. North Carolina. The most recent result caps a 26 year history of strong bar pass rates according to a school spokesperson. When asked by the National Jurist Magazine to explain the secret of Campbell's success, the director of academic support said credit goes in large part to an emphasis on practical skills training in the curriculum.
Continuing to dominate the bar exam, after Campbell Law reported a 94.53 percent bar passage rate for the Class of 2012. It was the highest pass rate among all North Carolina schools. Campbell has excelled on the bar exam for the past 26 years, despite not offering a for-credit bar prep course to students.
“This score, as well as our consistent success on the North Carolina Bar Exam, is indicative of our culture and practical curriculum,” said Campbell Law Director of Academic Support & Bar Success Sha Hinds-Glick.
According to a posting on the Harvard Business Review blog by Heidi Grant Halvorson, positive feedback often may be best for rookies and negative feedback may be best for those with experience:
It's important to begin by understanding the function that positive and negative feedback serve. Positive feedback (e.g., Here's what you did really well....) increases commitment to the work you do, by enhancing both your experience and your confidence. Negative feedback (e.g., Here's where you went wrong....), on the other hand, is informative — it tells you where you need to spend your effort, and offers insight into how you might improve.
Given these two different functions, positive and negative feedback should be more effective (and more motivating) for different people at different times. For instance, when you don't really know what you are doing, positive feedback helps you to stay optimistic and feel more at ease with the challenges you are facing — something novices tend to need. But when you are an expert, and you already more or less know what you are doing, it's negative feedback that can help you do what it takes to get to the top of your game.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
You've probably already seen the New York Times story that came out yesterday, Law Schools’ Applications Fall as Costs Rise and Jobs Are Cut. Interspersed are quotes like this:
“We are going through a revolution in law with a time bomb on our admissions books,” said William D. Henderson, a professor of law at Indiana University, who has written extensively on the issue. “Thirty years ago if you were looking to get on the escalator to upward mobility, you went to business or law school. Today, the law school escalator is broken.”
But you may not have yet seen a similar story running in The Atlantic called Law School Applications Are Collapsing (As They Should Be). It's chock full of charts. graphs and data supporting the point that law schools are no longer immune from the forces that have brought down the rest of the economy since the great recession began and now the chickens have come home to roost. Check it out.
There's also this related story running in the February issue of The Economist called Guilty as charged: Cheaper legal education and more liberal rules would benefit America’s lawyers—and their clients. Here's the relevant quote from that article:
During the decade before the economic crisis, spending on legal services in America grew twice as fast as inflation. The best lawyers made skyscrapers-full of money, tempting ever more students to pile into law schools. But most law graduates never get a big-firm job. Many of them instead become the kind of nuisance-lawsuit filer that makes the tort system a costly nightmare. According to a study in 2006, America has more lawyers per person of its population than any of 29 countries studied (except Greece), and it spends two to three times as much on its tort system, as a percentage of GDP, as other big economies (except Italy, where things are nearly as bad).
There are many reasons for this. One is the extortionate costs of a legal education. There is just one path for a lawyer in most American states: a four-year undergraduate degree in some unrelated subject, then a three-year law degree at one of 200 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association and an expensive preparation for the bar exam. This leaves today’s average law-school graduate with $100,000 of debt on top of undergraduate debts. Law-school debt means that many cannot afford to go into government or non-profit work, and that they have to work fearsomely hard.
You can continue reading at The Economist here.
The practice of law is becoming more interdisciplinary, meaning that lawyers need knowledge of other professional areas, such as corporations, construction, and medicine. When I was in practice, we had a major case concerning a coal mine disaster in Western Kentucky. The lawyers on the case had to become knowledgeable about coal mine safety law, coal mines, and practice before a federal agency. We even visited the mine where the disaster had occurred to help us understand the case.
Professors JoNel Newman and Melissa Swain have developed a clinical course at the University of Miami, which integrates the students into the health care system. They have posted a portfolio on the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Website, which discusses the clinic.
They introduce their clinic:
"Law schools have traditionally failed to adequately prepare graduates to assume their professional role. Our innovative, interdisciplinary, medical-legal course rectifies this by fully immersing law students in their role as advocates for under-served individuals and populations. Our students develop core competencies through repetitive practice and experience. They also forge their professional identity and develop ethical judgment through these experiences and the contrasting professional identities they encounter and explore in the medical field."
They also describe the clinic in more detail:
"Since 2005, the Health and Elder Law Clinic has been an in-house live client clinical course at the University of Miami Law School, offered to second and third year law students. The clinic is a Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, providing legal services to patients in the HIV and other Clinics, as well as the VA Hospital. The high volume 'teaching hospital' model integrates legal assistance as a vital component of solving the health problems of vulnerable populations. The law students become members of the healthcare team and assist patients with legal issues, such as disability, public benefits, advance directives, immigration relief, and unhealthy housing conditions. We provide hands-on, multidisciplinary experience designed to make law students practice-ready. Law student clinicians are paired with medical residents in an interdisciplinary enterprise that assesses and meets the medical and legal needs of patient-clients. The medical and legal clinicians are cross-trained in each others’ disciplines to the extent needed to engage in the joint clinical practice and conduct the client/patient intake/encounter together. Students participating in this experiential 'teaching hospital' will be prepared to begin their journey as lifetime legal learners. From the first day, they begin their practice with multiple real clients in real case situations, making strategic decisions under pressure."
There is much more information in the portfolio here.
In connection with the legal research and writing course I teach, I'm often looking for real-life examples from practice that illustrate the consequences of failing to comply with what students sometimes perceive as overly-technical rules on page length, fonts, citation form and the like. Well, here's an example that should make their collective hair stand on end and turn white; a law grad was denied bar admission for failing to put down her pen after time was called on the bar exam. According to witnesses interviewed by the Kentucky bar officials who conducted the investigation, the student in question continued to write for about 60 seconds after time was up. That, and then lying about it, was enough to keep her from gaining admission to the bar.
From the National Law Journal:
The Ohio Supreme Court has refused bar admission to a graduate who witnesses accused of continuing to write down answers to the bar examination after time was called.
In a January 29 decision, the court denied admission to Jasmine Parker, a 2011 graduate of Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law who sat for the Ohio exam in July 2011. The court found that Parker lacked the character and fitness to become licensed, but said she could reapply in February.
The decision followed an investigation by the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness. The panel reported accusations by two test-takers that they had seen Parker continue to answer three sets of questions on two separate days after test proctors announced that time was up.
One said that Parker continued to write for up to 60 seconds after the call; another that she had continued long enough to complete two lines of writing on her answer sheet. Both witnesses said they also had seen Parker continue to answer additional questions very briefly after time was called.
As a result of the investigation, the Ohio Board of Bar Examiners reviewed Parker's answers to four essay questions and awarded her zero points for the question with the highest-point value. Even so, she passed the exam.
. . . .
The Ohio Supreme Court, in an unsigned opinion, said it had considered Parker's response to the allegations of cheating. When initially confronted, she adamantly denied the allegations and said that her accusers were lying, according to a letter to bar examiners from the Ohio director of admissions. She said the accusations were malicious, false and unfounded, according to the director's letter.
However, during hearings that followed, she said that she didn't recall writing beyond the allotted time but said it was possible that she had done so.
Her conduct during the exam and her response to the investigation warranted rejecting her bar application, the court found. However, it also noted her regret.
"In light of Parker's sincere remorse and her maturation as a result of this experience, we permit Parker to reapply for admission to the bar on or after February 1, 2013," the justices wrote.
I am sure that most of you are aware of Professor William Henderson's evaluation of Washington & Lee's third-year experiential program as highly successful. The story has been featured throughout the legal blogesphere, and the ABA Journal has picked up on this very important story. (here)
Three questions remain. How did W & L develop their program? What is their program? Why is it working so well?
The answer to the first question (How did W & L develop their program) is in this article: Reforming the Third Year of Law School by Lyman Johnson, Robert T. Danforth, and David Millon.
A detail answer to what is the substance of their program appears here: Litigation and Transactional Immersions by James Moliterno.
The answer to why the program is working so well requires a book by itself. To give a short answer, let me quote from a recent book on learning, How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching by Susan Ambose et. al. (p. 5): "Students must develop not only the component skills and knowledge necessary to perform complex tasks, they must also practice combining them and integrating them to develop greater fluency and automaticity. Finally, students must learn when and how to apply the skills and knowledge they learn." In other words, not only do students need doctrinal knowledge, they need to be able to apply that knowledge to concrete situations. Traditional law school teaching methods have done a good job of teaching doctrinal knowledge, but, for the most part, law schools have failed to teach students how to apply their knowledge to solving problems. This last part is what the Washington & Lee program has accomplished so well.
This is what James Moliterno has said about the Washington & Lee program: "Experiential education is not, as some would belittle it, merely skills teaching. Instead, it is the primary vehicle for professional enculturation and a valuable vehicle for teaching law and theory. Learning by doing is more than mere activity-based exercises. Learning by doing is a role transition, in this instance from student to lawyer. Guided activities in role allow students to test and adopt the professional role, with the guidance of an expert mentor and teacher."
Update: Professor David Millon of Washington and Lee has sent me the following comment: "I would add to Jim's important comment at the end of your piece, about professionalism enculturation, that our efforts to teach lawyering skills are also designed to give the students a 'tool kit' that they can use in their practica and clinics. The point is to help them begin to learn law and think about it and apply it the way lawyers do (rather than the way law students do), which requires introduction to the basic skills that lawyers use in their professional lives. No one at W&L thinks that our efforts at skills instruction— which are extensive— will somehow be sufficient to allow our graduates truly 'to hit the ground running.' Even so, and ironically, the claim could be made that it is not until the third year that we really begin to teach our students to 'think like lawyers.'"
It happens all the time. The employer has filled the position, but Human Resources urges the employer to run ads anyway. Why? If the employer can point to a stack of applications, the employer has a better chance of defending against charges of discrimination. The employer has worked through the stack and found the most suitable candidate. From the Wall Street Journal, here’s a three minute video supplying the explanation.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
According to some new research posted on the Harvard Busines Review blog, the answer is "yes."
Across cultures, dining together is a common part of the process of reaching negotiated agreements. In Russia and Japan, important business dealings are conducted almost exclusively while dining and drinking and in the U.S., many negotiations begin with "Let's do lunch." But are business deals actually improved when people discuss important matters over a meal?
To explore this question, I conducted two experiments. The first compared negotiations that took place over a meal in restaurants to negotiations in conference rooms, without any food to eat. In the second, negotiations were conducted with or without a meal in a business conference room. In the experiments, 132 MBA students negotiated a complex joint venture agreement between two companies. In the simulation, a provisional deal is in place, but a variety of terms must still be considered and agreed upon to maximize profits for their companies. The negotiators must determine how to handle each term of the deal. As is typical in many negotiations, in order to maximize their profits, the negotiators must share information and work together with the other side to learn where the most value can be created.
The greatest possible profits were created by the parties who were able to discern the other side's preferences and then work collectively to discover the profit maximizing outcomes for the joint venture, rather than merely considering their own company's profits. In the simulation, this can only be accomplished when the negotiators make trade-offs and then compensate each other from the net gains to the joint venture. The maximum value that can be created jointly for both companies is $75 million. Deals can be struck at lower combined values, down to as low as $38 million. To explore how eating together affected negotiation outcomes, I considered the total value created by both companies.
The students who ate together while negotiating — either at a restaurant or over food brought into a business conference room — created significantly increased profits compared to those who negotiated without dining. (Individuals who negotiated in restaurants created 12% greater profits and those who negotiated over food in a conference room created 11% greater profits.) This suggests that eating while deciding important matters offers profitable, measurable benefits through mutually productive discussions.
. . . .
I expected that both sharing a meal and collaborating on an activity would increase trust between the participants — and perhaps that the cultural history attached to eating together would increase trust more than sharing other activities — but when I surveyed participants in both studies, the trust levels they reported did not increase.
Why else might eating together improve the outcome of negotiations? There may be biological factors at work. When the negotiators in my first two studies ate, they immediately increased their glucose levels. Research has shown that the consumption of glucose enhances complex brain activities, bolstering self-control and regulating prejudice and aggressive behaviors. Other research
has shown that unconscious mimicking behaviors of others leads to increased pro-social behaviors; when individuals eat together they enact the same movements. This unconscious mimicking of each other may induce positive feelings towards both the other party and the matter under discussion.
Continue reading here.
“But frustration, negativity and the daily grind can bring even the best Russell Crowe look-like to tears. So how can you reframe your professional life and zing your brain back into peak performance?” Consultant and criminal defense attorney Ryan Sullivan suggests five ways to bring positive thinking and a positive attitude to your professional life (greatly abridged from Attorney at Work):
1. Rekindle an old romance. Still harboring fantasies about being a scientist? Playing the lead in a Broadway musical? Was Freudian analysis your thing in college psych class? Whatever it is, dig around and find out how to put some aspect of it into your practice today
2. Don’t just strategize, empathize. If another [opposing attorney’s] antics are driving you bananas, pause a moment to think why this person might be making those choices.
3. Don’t pooh-pooh the positive. Ignoring the positive is like walking over $100 bills without bending down to pick them up. Quit pooh-poohing and pick up the money, people!
4. Pass on the show-and-tell. But beware the temptation to unnecessarily unload burdens on your fellow professionals. Be a source of encouragement to others in the workplace, not a toxic dump.
5. Make Audrey Hepburn proud Make like Audrey and be a persuasive, intelligent and charming advocate. There’s nothing more effective than showing genuine, competent warmth towards those around you.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
On Monday, I posted about an article from a group of professors at St. Thomas School of Law, which discussed how St. Thomas taught professional identity to its students. Today, I am discussing an article that tries to understand how the problem of professional identity developed within law schools and the legal profession and argues that there can be no effective law school reform without changing the fundamental understanding of the lawyer's role currently taught in law schools.
Making Good Lawyers by Eli Wald and Russell G. Pierce.
Abstract: Today, the criticism of law schools has become an industry. Detractors argue that legal education fails to effectively prepare students for the practice of law, that it is too theoretical and detached from the profession, that it dehumanizes and alienates students, too expensive and inapt in helping students develop a sense of professional identity, professional values, and professionalism. In this sea of criticisms it is hard to see the forest from the trees. “There is so much wrong with legal education today,” writes one commentator, “that it is hard to know where to begin.”
This article argues that any reform agenda will fall short if it does not start by recognizing the dominant influence of the culture of autonomous self-interest in legal education. Law schools engage in a project of professional formation and instill a very particular brand of professional identity. They educate students to become autonomously self-interested lawyers who see their clients and themselves as pursuing self-interest as atomistic actors. As a result, they understand that their primary role is to serve as neutral partisans who promote the narrow self-interest of clients without regard to the interests of their families, neighbors, colleagues, or communities and to the exclusion of counseling clients on the implications of those interests. They view as marginal their roles as an officer of the legal system and as a public citizen and accordingly place a low priority on traditional professional values, such as the commitment to the public good, that conflict with their primary allegiance to autonomous self-interest.
In this work of professional formation, law schools are reflecting the values and commitments of the autonomously self-interested culture that is dominant in the legal profession. Therefore, even if law schools sought to form a professional identity outside of the mold of autonomous self-interest, such a commitment would require much more than curricular reform. It would, at minimum, require the construction of a persuasive alternative understanding of the lawyer’s role.
The article seeks to offer such an understanding grounded in a relational perspective on lawyers and clients. Part I offers workable definitions of professionalism and professional identity that enable an informed discussion of the formation of professional identity in and by law schools. Part II explores what and how legal education teaches students showing that both institutionally (at the law school level) and individually (at the law professor level) legal education is proactively engaged in the formation of a professional identity of autonomous self-interest. Part II further explains that its dominance in legal education notwithstanding, autonomous self-interest is but one, often unpersuasive, account of professionalism and professional identity. Part III turns to the competing vision of relationally self-interested professionalism and professional identity and develops an outline for legal education grounded in these conceptions. Because legal education reflects a deep commitment to the dominant culture of autonomous self-interest, it is unlikely that reform proposals that are inconsistent with that culture are likely to succeed in the near future. Yet proposing an alternative account of professional identity that exposes the assumptions of the dominant culture, explains their limitations, and develops a more persuasive understanding is a necessary step toward providing a workable framework for reformers committed to promoting professional values in the long term.
Here's a cool tip for spotting and correcting the passive voice in your legal documents from Ross Guberman, President of Legal Writing Pro and author of the best selling Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates.
It's part of a blog post Ross has published in which he explains how to tell the difference between a true passive voice construction and phrasings that sound like it but aren't. The entire post is worth reading but towards the end he offers the following techie tip for Word users that will help you spot and correct the "real" passive voice more easily.
So what’s the best way to separate “real” passive constructions from fake ones?
The best clues are the combination of a conjugated form of to be or to get or to have with a past participle. If finding that combination seems like a pain, let me share a secret:You can configure Microsoft Word to underline sentences containing passive constructions. Just go to Spelling and Grammar, Options, Settings, and then, under “Style” settings, click the “Passive Sentences” box.
Here are the details:
WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW
Director, Nonprofit Organizations Law Clinic
WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW invites applications for the position of Director of the Nonprofit Organizations Law Clinic (previously known as the Business Formation Clinic), one of fifteen law clinic and externship courses offered by the Law School (see http://law.wustl.edu/clinicaled/pages.aspx?id=6835).
The Clinic, through its second and third-year law students, provides free legal assistance on entity formation and other transactional matters to individuals and organizations. Clinic students typically assist clients in incorporating, obtaining tax exempt status, and addressing a wide range of operational and regulatory issues. The Nonprofit Organizations Clinic is taught in conjunction with the Intellectual Property Clinic, offering students a unique opportunity to also learn about the patent, copyright, and trademark issues confronting organizations. Often clients present both nonprofit and intellectual property issues.
The Director is expected to oversee all aspects of the Clinic, including the teaching of students (through one-on-one tutorials and weekly seminars), supervision of and responsibility for student casework, identification and selection of clients, and administration of the office and staff. There may also be an opportunity to teach a non-clinical course in the Law School.
Candidates should have significant experience practicing transactional law (preferably including the representation of nonprofit entities), outstanding legal research and writing skills, and promise as a teacher and mentor for law students. Candidates must be eligible to practice law in Missouri (i.e., must be a member of the Missouri bar or eligible for admission as a law teacher without examination pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 13.06). Salary is commensurate with experience.
Applicants should submit a cover letter, resume, law school transcript, and list of references.
Washington University School of Law is committed to diversity and encourages applications from racial and ethnic groups, women, persons with disabilities, and other under-represented groups.
Submit application to: Professor Robert Kuehn, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs, Washington University School of Law, One Brookings Drive, Campus Box 1120, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899; email@example.com. For fullest consideration, apply by March 1st.
This blog has often used the third-year experiential program at Washington & Lee School of Law as a model for legal education reform. Now, a detailed study by Professor William Henderson on The Legal Whiteboard demonstrates that Washington & Lee's program has delivered "a significantly better education to 3L students."
Professor Henderson writes, "Here it is in a nutshell. There is empirical evidence that Washington & Lee’s experiential 3L curriculum is delivering a significantly better education to 3L students—significantly better than prior graduating classes at W&L, and significantly better than W&L’s primary competitors. Moreover, at a time when total law school applicants are on the decline, W&L’s getting more than its historical share of applicants and getting a much higher yield. When many schools are worried about revenues to survive next year and the year after, W&L is worried about creating the bandwidth needed to educate the surplus of students who enrolled in the fall of 2012, and the backlog of applicants that the school deferred to the fall of 2013."
He continues, "there is substantial evidence that the W&L 3L program delivers comparative value. The evidence is based on several years' worth of data from the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE). I received permission from Professor James Moliterno, someone who took a leadership role in building W&L’s third year program, to share some of the key results (each school controls access to its LSSSE data.) . . . .
But before getting into empirical evidence, I want to put squarely on the table the most sobering finding that likely applies to virtually all of legal education. It is this: On several key LSSSE metrics, W&L has made impressive gains vis-à-vis its own historical benchmarks and its primary rival schools. . . . Here is the bottom line: Traditional legal education, when it is measured, does not fare very well. Yet, as W&L shows, substantial improvement is clearly possible."
Professor Henderson does have a word of caution: "But even for this leader, there remains enormous room for improvement."
He concludes, "The example of the Washington & Lee 3L experiential year ought to be a watershed for legal education. We can no longer afford to ignore data. Through LSSSE, high quality comparative data are cheap and comprehensive. And that information, as we have seen, can significantly improve the value of a legal education."
This is very exciting news. As we have said numerous times on this blog, the key to survival for many law schools may be the ability to do something new that educates students better and, consequently, draws students to that law school. The success of the Washington & Lee program supports this hypothesis.
If your court or your Legal Writing class places caps on the number of words that you can place in a document, this study will be of interest. Don Cruse’s “The Supreme Court of Texas Blog” has noted that different word processing systems count words differently. The various systems have to make choices about how to count words and phrases. For example:
- Phrasal adjectives: Is “summary-judgment motion” two words or three?
- Legal citations: Is “S.W.3d” one word or two?
- Numerals: Does a pinpoint cite to a span of pages (e.g., “123-25″) count as one word or two?
- Record citations: Is a record citation like “4.RR.124-25″ one word or two or three or four?
- Statutory citations: How many words is a cite to “§123.23(A)(1)(i)(a)”? Is it just one long word, or is it five very short words?
To illustrate, Cruse conducted an experiment:
I lifted roughly a page and a half from a recent appellate brief. I put this text into its own clean word-processing file and made a few tweaks to the typography.
Here are the word counts from four word processors I had at my fingertips:
Microsoft Word 2011
Mac OS X (10.8)
Mac OS X (10.8)
What led to the huge gap between the lowest count (Word) and the highest count (Pages)? It turns out that Pages uses an algorithm that treats an abbreviation like “4.RR.125-26″ as being four words. Yes, four. Pages sees imaginary word breaks in places that I do not.
Monday, January 28, 2013
For as long as records have been kept, this is looking to be the lowest number of total law school applications (made worse by the fact that there are now 26 more accredited law schools than in 1983 when such records began being collected). The National Law Journal has the story.
Nearly everyone in legal education expected the number of law school applicants to fall off this academic year. But they weren't prepared for this.
As of mid-January, 27,891 people had applied for seats in American Bar Association-accredited law schools. That represented a 20 percent decline since last year (and 2012 was hardly a banner year itself, as the number of applicants fell by nearly 14 percent.) If the trend holds through the final months of the admission cycle, law schools would see a 38 percent crash since their peak in 2010.
"I am surprised by the extent of the decline," said University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Jerome Organ, who has been tracking law school enrollment and economic trends. "I had anticipated a decline, but possibly a more moderate decline than the last two years."
It looks like one for the record books: Upon seeing the application figures from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law professor Deborah Jones Merritt decided to research the last time U.S. law schools had attracted such a small applicant pool. She couldn't find records before 1983, but at no time during the past 30 years had the applicant totals slipped below 60,000. (There were 175 ABA-accredited law schools during the early 1980s; there now are 201.)
. . . .
"It's become clear that there is no chance of redemption for this cycle," said Sarah Zearfoss, senior assistant dean for admissions, financial aid and career planning at the University of Michigan Law School. "The December LSAT sitting is already over and there is no reason to think that there will be a larger-than-normal February sitting."
February is the last opportunity for prospective applicants to take the Law School Admission Test in time to meet this year's application deadlines. During the December sitting, nearly 16 percent fewer people took the test compared with 2011. Merritt said that most prospective law school applicants were starting their undergraduate educations during the Great Recession, as large firms were shedding associates and even partners in shocking numbers. That turmoil shattered the perception of the legal profession as a low-risk and lucrative career path. "I would be surprised to see applications go up again, unless there are major changes in the legal industry," Merritt said.
. . . .
In contrast to reports suggesting the halcyon days of BigLaw are gone forever, a new survey from Wells Fargo Private Banking Legal Specialty Group found, to the surprise of most, that revenue was up for the year just concluded for the AmLaw 100 and that the next tier of firms, the so-called AmLaw "Second Hundred," did even better. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has the story (subscription required):
Against all expectations, in 2012 big law firms actually had what Ol’ Blue Eyes would have called a very good year, according to a preliminary survey out from Wells Fargo Private Bank’s Legal Specialty Group.
. . . .Law firm prospects appear to have bucked up in 2012, bringing numbers that, on average, were better than what Wells Fargo has seen in the past few years since the recession.
“This came as a complete surprise,” Mr. Grossman, national managing director for the group, told Law Blog on Monday.
- 5% increase in gross law firm revenues, compared to 2011
- Net income was up nearly 6%
- Profits per equity partner increased by nearly 5%
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Another interesting trend: a split between the respondents from the top 100-grossing firms as ranked by American Lawyer, compared to those a bit further down the ladder in what law wonks call the AmLaw Second Hundred.
“The AmLaw Second Hundred outperformed the First Hundred,” Mr. Grossman said, adding that usually the reverse happens.
Here’s a breakdown:
AmLaw 100 Respondents Second 100 Respondents Average Revenue Up 4.5% Up 6.5% Average Net Income Up 5.6% Up 6.4% Best-Performing Firm (by revenue) Up 17% Up 23% Worst-Performing Firm (by revenue) Down 4% Down 6%
However you slice it, the averages are looking up compared to the years after the recession, when demand for legal services cratered.
Continue reading here.
Law schools and universities increasingly rely on adjuncts to teach courses. And given the economy, we can expect this trend to continue, if not accelerate. After all, adjuncts come cheap, and full timers are expensive. Recently one of my colleagues suggested—only half jokingly—that in fifteen years, our law school might have only five tenured faculty on staff. Adjuncts would perform the majority of the academic tasks.
Even if this scenario never comes to pass, we should recognize that adjuncts affect the nature of our institutions, and the nature of an institution affects how an adjunct carries out the teaching task. Have we reached the point at which adjuncts should play a role in shaping the institutions in which they work?
A committee of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) says yes. You can read a copy of its report, “The Inclusion in Governance of Faculty Members Holding Contingent Appointments,” here.