Saturday, February 16, 2013
From JD Journal (excerpts):
A federal lawsuit has been filed in response to a rule that requires state-accredited law schools in California to keep their bar passage rates at 40 percent or higher, according to The National Law Journal.
The new rule was adopted back in December and it applies to cumulative passage rates over a five-year period and is retroactive. If a school does not meet the 40 percent minimum this year, they will receive noncompliance notices. As of 2016, schools that are non-compliant could be placed on probation and lose their state accreditation.
“The legislature provided no policy guidelines and gave no directions for the implementation of such policies,” the complaint says. “By acting in violation of state constitutional prohibitions against judicial and quasi-judicial rule-making, defendants acted without legal authority.”
A major theme on this blog has been making law students self-regulated (life-long) learners. Elizabeth M. Bloom has just posted an article on this topic, which focuses on self-regulated learning in academic support, on SSRN.
Abstract: Amidst current concerns about the value of a legal education, this article seeks to identify ways in which law schools and law professors can take steps to maximize the learning experience for their students. The article focuses on cutting-edge strategies that will help a diverse population of law students become self-regulated learners. Drawing on the work of educational psychologists, it describes ways to help students adapt to the demands of the law school learning experience and then outlines specific strategies for teaching students to regulate their motivational beliefs, their resource management practices, and their approaches to mastering the material. Throughout, the article emphasizes the importance of these skills for success both as law students and as lawyers. Finally, checklists are provided to help law professors build a culture of self-regulated learning in their schools.
This article from the New York Law Journal describes an increased focus at three New York City area law schools on teaching the kind of legal skills that should make students more marketable to local employers given the dominance of the financial services industry in the city.
New York Law School recently launched a Center for Business and Financial Law to provide students with academic study and skills training in corporate, commercial and financial services law.
Four full-time faculty members are associated with the program that offers CLE, a speakers' forums and events on topics like transactional law, regulation of the financial services industry, development of corporate values, and legal and business challenges for new and small businesses.
"As we continue to deliver on the fundamentals of a legal education, it is incumbent on us to also develop focused tracks to employment in traditional and non-traditional legal fields, especially in areas of high growth," Dean Anthony Crowell said in a press release. "Even as our city's economy diversifies, the financial sector will always be a major employer in New York and across the globe. Given our proximity to Wall Street and depth of expertise in the area, I'm confident this new program will be a competitive advantage for our students."
New York University School of Law last week received a $750,000 gift from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to support the school's law and business curriculum. Select courses will now be housed under the heading "Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP Transactional and Law and Business Courses." The gift was facilitated by two alumni, Paul Weiss partners Alan Kornberg and Valerie Radwaner.
For its part, Brooklyn Law School held a three-day "business boot camp" before the start of the spring semester for 200 students interested in the business of law. Students learned basic business vocabulary and skills they will need to understand future clients' business objectives and to launch their own entrepreneurial careers.
The free, for-credit course was a partnership with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services. It was modeled on law firm training on business and financial topics that Deloitte teaches first-year associates. "No matter what path you choose—private practice, government service or joining a public interest organization—becoming business literate will be critical to your future success," Barry Salzberg, a Brooklyn Law alum and Global CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, said in a school press release.
More than 50 Brooklyn law alumni—including law firm partners, CEOs and general counsels of companies—led small-group sessions sharing their experiences as law practitioners and entrepreneurs.
Friday, February 15, 2013
It's that time of year when law students approach their profs for letters of recommendation for summer internships (the employers who recruit through fall OCI typically don't ask for letters of recommendation; they only want to know class rank and whether you're on law review). According to the Lawyerist blog, there are three things that will make it less likely your prof will want to write that letter or otherwise recommend you for the job. I'll add that the list is one that I wholeheartedly agree with.
adjunct instructor at my law school, I have the privilege of imparting practical advice to law students. Many of my students heed my advice on how to succeed in law school (and beyond).
On the flip side, I also witness behavior that leaves me less than impressed.
Here are three ways to create a bad impression with a law school professor.
Obsess over grades
Wanting to get good grades is a good thing. Obsessing over it to your professor or instructor is not. Like every other lawyer, I went to law school. I was immersed in the ultra-competitive bubble where grades are the beginning and end of the universe.
Even then, however, I understood that getting good grades is just part of law school success. I even pushed myself to work during law school (gasp!) to acquire practical skills.
In hindsight, I wish I had taken more skills-based classes. In the ones I did take, I was focused on the exercises and learning from them—because those were the building blocks of actual lawyering skills. In other words: I focused on my mistakes and correcting them. I’m sure I thought about grades, but I rarely asked “so, what grade did I get on that assignment?”
There’s nothing wrong about asking for feedback. That is completely distinct and different from asking about your grade(s). In my humble opinion, asking “what grade did I get” is the equivalent of going to an interview and asking “so, did I get the job?”
Here’s a little tip: students who put forth a strong effort on a regular basis and actively engage to improve their legal skills will usually end up ok in the grade department. Most importantly, they will end up light years ahead in the skills department.
Putting forth less than 100% effort
For practical skill classes, effort is critical. Throwing yourself into a simulation at 100% and hitting some bumps in the road is not only desirable—it is expected. Simulations are not designed to make law students cry, but they are designed to make them learn. That usually means unpredictable roadblocks.
It’s impressive to see law students recognize roadblocks and step to the challenge. It’s incredibly impressive to see students reflect on it afterwards and say: “I didn’t handle that as well as I wanted to, but now I know what to look for/how to handle it next time.” News flash: that’s what happens in the world of lawyering.
It’s not impressive to see a student throw in the towel. Even worse: complain about how the roadblock was unfair because they were not prepared for it. Again: random explosions and unpredictably are common in the practice of law. Complaining is never a solution to those situations.
Don’t listen/don’t pay attention/feign interest
It’s ok to screw up when you encounter a tough situation in law school (see above). It’s a bad idea to do something that was discussed as “please, please, don’t do this: ______” and then immediately do it during the next class or exercise. Unless you think it’s impressive to demonstrate that you were not paying attention. I’m not talking about something tricky, I’m talking about something basic, simple, and intuitive.
Continue reading here.
For all the intellectual property folks: Mark Towle, a California custom car designer has made replicas of the Batmobile. Warner Brothers was not happy. At issue is whether a car can be a copyrighted character. From Hollywood, Esq.:
Towle was taken to court for violating trademarks and copyrights on replicas of the Batmobile, which set off a furious dispute over whether a car is entitled to copyright protection. The defendant objected to the contention, saying in court papers in December that a ruling that afforded the studio the ability to stop reproduction and distribution of a famous car would have "a significant impact on automobile makers and manufacturers."
In an extraordinary 54-page ruling Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lew writes that "it is clear that the Batmobile is a copyrighted character."
You can read the opinion here
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Bucking the nationwide trend among law schools, the University of Montana School of Law reports that applications are up this year. Indeed, it may be one of only four schools among the 200 or so accredited by the ABA that has seen an increase in applications for fall 2013. Administrators attribute this to low cost tuition, high bar pass rates and good job placement stats that lead one publication to rank the school among the ten best value law schools in the country. From The Montana Kaimin:
While applications to law schools nationwide have been plummeting, the University of Montana School of Law is one of just four law schools out of 200 to see an increase in applicants for next year.
As of last week, the University's law school applications were running ahead of the number of applications received at this time last year. That number is gradually rising while other universities continue to drop, said Lori Freeman, who oversees admissions and career services at the law school.
Freeman said students are getting a good deal in Missoula.
"I believe the reason the UM School of Law is in a relatively good position is due to increased recruiting efforts as well as the fact that we are ranked as a top 10 Best Value law school," Freeman said.
. . . .
While UM’s application numbers are up now, the law school has been on a roller coaster along with other law schools. Applications rose quickly with the rest of the nation in 2010, only to drop from 511 to 325 between 2010 and 2012.
The University's application statistics reveal that the most dramatic drop was in out-of-state students, while in-state students seem to show very little difference in recent years.
Freeman believes the consistent number of Montana residents stems from the UM School of Law's in-state tuition, high bar passage rates, and more consistent job placements in the legal industry, which is perhaps why UM was ranked number seven in this year's Top 10 Best Value Law School.
In-state tuition to UM’s School of Law is about $11,000 a year, Freeman said. Out-of-state students pay about $27,000.
“Even our out-of-state tuition is a good deal compared to many school’s in-state tuition,” Freeman said. “Tuition overall is a good deal.”
From Education Week:
Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Missouri principal did not offend the First Amendment when he removed articles about teen pregnancy, divorce, and other so-called mature topics from a high school newspaper. By a 5-3 vote, the court ruled that, when students use an expressive "forum" provided by their schools, administrators are free to censor their speech on any basis "reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns."
The decision was legally dubious from the start. It was built on the doubtful assumption that students have diminished First Amendment interests in school-subsidized newspapers because those papers are not meant to be vehicles for the expression of student views.
How does the decision affect college students and perhaps our students?
At a recent symposium assessing the impact of the high court's decision, David Cuillier, the director of the University of Arizona's school of journalism, said the college has been forced to adopt a remedial First Amendment course to repair the civic damage done to students in K-12 schools: "I have been so alarmed by the kinds of students coming into our college programs who are completely unprepared for what journalism is about. They think it's OK to be told what to print and not to print. They don't challenge authority like they should."
No less an authority than retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools has identified a meaningful voice in school policymaking as one of the foundational necessities for effective civic learning. Hazelwood censorship devalues that voice to the point that many students have stopped even trying to make a difference.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Ronald M. Dworkin, an influential scholar and public intellectual who was known for his theory that moral integrity should guide legal decisions, died on Thursday in London, according to an obituary in The New York Times. He was 81.
Mr. Dworkin joined New York University’s law-school faculty in 1975, and his appointment is credited with helping to transform the school into one of the most well regarded in the United States. In later years he also was affiliated with University College London, where he held an emeritus appointment. He was a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and wrote several books on legal philosophy that have been cited widely by other legal scholars.
Judge Guido Calabresi, a former dean of Yale Law School who now sits on a federal appeals court, told the Times that Mr. Dworkin was “the primary legal philosopher of his generation.”
A couple of weeks ago, William Henderson had a post on the Legal Whiteboard that demonstrated the success of Washington & Lee's third-year experiential program. Several blogs criticized this post. Now, Jim Moliterno, one of the creators of the program, has written a reply to the criticisms.
In this post, I would like to discuss his response to the claim that programs such as W & L's are not academic.
"There is nothing anti-academic about studying the work of lawyers. To say so betrays a false elitism more likely borne of insecurity than of truth. Many legal academics could not do what lawyers do: solve real clients’ problems that involve extra-legal attributes. The work of lawyers is sophisticated. It partakes of some of the rigor of law school teaching and scholarship, but it also relies on sophisticated problem-solving and a multiplicity of other talents. Some who claim that lawyer work is mundane and uninteresting fail to understand the nature of that work in the first instance. Some who make the claim seek cover from their own lack of capacity to do such work. Describing it as uninteresting allows the speaker to hide his or her inadequacy. The study of effective lawyers is a sophisticated inquiry. The work of excellent lawyers is not mundane. And the mundane tasks undertaken by beginning lawyers in the past are becoming commoditized and outsourced.
The current system of legal education fails to account for a simple truth: the skill-set of legal academics is not a perfect overlap with that of the role to which the vast majority of our students aspire. The 19th Century redesign of legal education was based on the premise that law school’s primary mission was not to create lawyers but rather to create law professors. (This conclusion is documented in the correspondence of the main contemporary actors involved in the reform.) Many adjustments have been made over the subsequent century and a quarter, but the remnants of those 19th Century decisions perist today.
Generally speaking, legal academics are excellent law analyzers and theorists. We are critical thinkers and precise analysts of law and its theoretical underpinnings. Students need this same talent and we are best at conveying it, especially in the traditional first-year courses and teaching modes. But to be successful lawyers, students need more than that foundational thinking skill. They need to learn how to problem solve when some of the factors are not strictly law-related; they need to learn to work in teams and to manage projects; they need to acquire a measure of business sense whether they serve as business counsel or manage their own law shop; they need to learn how to manage risk and assess the risk adversity level of clients; they need to communicate the law and its constraints to non-lawyers; they need to acquire bedside manner. In short, there is a multitude of talents and skills and attributes that students need to acquire that are not the skill-domain of academics (with many academics being an exception to this rule).
One blogger said that the 3L curriculum at W&L “focuses on practical lawyer skills.” This sort of statement sells the new curriculum far short of its reality. It actually focuses on the attributes, skills and mental habits of successful lawyers, all while providing students with substantive law and theoretical learning as well. A broad view of lawyer skills would include the mental development fostered in the first year as well. It is time to stop pretending that legal analysis is not a practical lawyer skill. It is—and it is both critical and fundamental—but it is not the only skill/attribute/talent that lawyers need to be successful."
What Professor Moliterno says about his program is true of legal education reform in general. Those who disagree wrongly think that skills (application of knowledge) can be taught separately from doctrine. Problem solving is academic. It aids in learning doctrine because it reinforces doctrine. (From a neurobiological view, it strengthens the neurons where knowledge is stored). Moreover, as Professor Moliterno said in his post, "to fully grasp and understand, students must not only acquire knowledge but they must also use it." This is the central tenet of legal education reform.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
That's according to a post at the job site monster.com called "[Four] Job Skills That No Longer Impress Recruiters."
According to online salary database, PayScale.com, the skills on this list have seen the biggest drop in market value over the last few years. "These skills are associated with jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts to have slow to no growth over the next 10 years," says Katie Bardaro, Director of Analytics at PayScale.com. "Often, to be successful in your career, you need to have multiple skills to set yourself apart," says Bardaro.
. . . .
An abundance of underemployed law school grads makes this skill not as impressive as it used to be. If you want to compete with them, you may need to head back to law school yourself.
Other "skills" making the list include the ability to speak Spanish, knowing how to install and upgrade software (who doesn't?) and being a home mortgage specialist.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
From Curriculum Matters:
A House panel in Idaho unanimously approved a bill today that calls on the state board of education to require public schools to teach cursive handwriting, the Associated Press reports.
The bill's lead sponsor, Republican Rep. Lindan Bateman, made an "impassioned" case for his resolution before the vote, the AP story says, in which he cited tradition, along with some handwritten letters supporting the bill.
The issue of teaching cursive has gotten renewed attention in recent years, as advocates fear its demise in the digital age.
You can read more here.
I suspect most law profs breathed a sigh of relief when students started composing their exam answers on a keyboard instead of writing them out longhand. Should we jump on the bandwagon and require at least one assignment per course to be handwritten in cursive? I don’t think so.
By the way, for a page of notes written in cursive by James Madison at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, please click here
Here’s some historical background from Christianity.com:
Today we exchange cards expressing love or appreciation for one another. According to tradition, on this day, February 14, 269, a young man named Valentine was executed in Rome for his faith. But what does our exchange of sentimental cards have to do with a third century martyr?
Actually, the connection is not at all clear. Valentine was martyred the day before the pagan festival to the goddess Februata Juno at which boys drew girls' names for acts of sexual promiscuity. Were legends about the martyr's death modified to replace the heathen custom? No one knows for sure. In fact, there may have been two or even three martyrs named Valentine who died in different parts of the empire at about the same time. We know little or nothing about any of them.
You can read more here.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
During tonight's State of the Union address, the President spoke about the high cost of college tuition with obvious implications for the continued federal subsidy of student loans to attend law school. With respect to colleges, the President asked Congress to implement changes in the way federal aid is awarded based on the "affordability and value" of the recipient institutions. Below is the relevant excerpt of tonight's speech courtesy of Politico.com followed by a video of the entire SOTU address.
Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do. Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.
More specifically, on-campus recruiting by law firms hasn't shown much growth since the Great Recession began several years ago. And on-campus recruiting this past fall remained flat compared to the year before. Click on the link for a summary of the NALP's just released Perspectives on Fall 2012 Law Student Recruiting or you can download a pdf copy here. The following is an excerpt from the press release:
For the fourth year in a row, law firms continued to exercise limited entry-level hiring. The legal sector saw a very small net gain in overall jobs in 2012, and overall lawyer headcount remains far off of pre-recession highs. Against that background, recruiting volumes by U.S. law firms on the campuses of U.S. law schools were mostly flat during the late summer and early fall of 2012 compared with recruiting activity the year before. These are among the key findings reported in NALP’s just-released Perspectives on Fall 2012 Law Student Recruiting, an annual report based on NALP surveys on selected aspects of fall recruitment activity and the experiences of both legal employers and law schools.
As reported by both law schools and law firms surveyed by NALP, there were pockets of growth and pockets of declining volumes, with a majority of stakeholders reporting no change from the previous year. There were variations by region and by city, but overall law firms continued to exhibit caution in recruiting new associates. Over the last three years law firms have certainly increased their entry-level hiring activity compared with the crash in entry-level hiring reflected by the data from 2008 and 2009. Rather than exhibiting the slow and steady recovery that might be hoped for, however, some firms seemed to put the brakes on in 2012, and both the median and average number of offers made to 2Ls (members of the Class of 2014) for summer associate positions in 2013 fell, as did the percent of interviews resulting in offers, after two years of gains that followed 2009 nadirs.
Law firms continue to bring in small summer classes, with median and average class size barely increasing from recession-era lows. Offer rates coming out of summer programs remained high, but fell by more than a point from the previous summer, and, perhaps not surprisingly, acceptance rates for those offers set another record for an historic high. For the fourth year in a row, few firms ventured back into the 3L market, and thus, students with offers from their summer program found few competing offers on the table.
An Inforgraphic is one step beyond a poster. From From Top Criminal Justice Degrees, Here is a infographic showing how DNA evidence has cleared many innocent individuals who were convicted of major crimes and served often lengthy terms in prison. It gets the message across efficiently and dramatically.
Monday, February 11, 2013
New legal "skills" scholarship: "Enhancing the teaching of lawyering skills and perspectives through virtual world engagement"
This article is by Professor Andrea M. Seielstad (Dayton) and available at 7 U Mass L. Rev. 40 (2012) and here. From the abstract:
Educators from around the globe are rapidly utilizing and transforming virtual worlds, such as Second Life, with innovative teaching strategies. Mediation and dispute resolution, and associated communication and problem-solving skills, are particularly well suited for developing in virtual worlds, as are other lawyering skills such as, interviewing, counseling and trial advocacy. The opportunities for students and faculty to engage in cross-cultural exchange and networking are another selling feature of virtual world engagement. Virtual worlds offer particular promise for those seeking innovative and cost-effective ways to integrate more professional training and skills development into the law school curriculum. Moreover, as more and more people enter virtual worlds and other forms or online social engagement, there is increasing need to offer innovative online opportunities for student learning. This article uses a project on teaching dispute resolution skills to law students conducted in the virtual world, Second Life, to show the advantages of utilizing a virtual world as a medium within the law school curriculum.
When newbie lawyers decide to hang out a shingle, they sometimes work from home. As the workload and number of clients increase, the may wonder whether it’s time to rent office space.
At Attorney at Work, Ruth Carter offers some thoughts. Here are some excerpts:
If you don’t meet with clients in person frequently, a so-called virtual office facility is an awesome option. Found in most larger cities, these facilities give you a mailing address, receptionist service and an office to meet with clients two to five days a month. Renting one of these often costs the same as a few hours of your services. Also, they may have mixers—a great way to network with others who use the space. There may be extra fees for renting a conference room, using the printer or copy machine, and parking.
To make a decision, you have to consider where you’ll be the most productive, and what situation will give you the most bang for your buck. I started my practice from home, but now I’m considering moving into a virtual office facility at a business center. I’m asking myself questions like:
- How much will this cost?
- How much time will I really spend there?
- How will the extra costs add up?
- Do I need two to five days a month to meet with clients?
- Do I want to group my client meetings to fit into two to five days a month?
- What do I gain by doing this compared to using the conference rooms at my state bar’s office for free?
Sunday, February 10, 2013
The New York Times has an article on the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education's public hearing in Dallas over the weekend. The article states, "While a few schools are freezing tuition and others are increasing hands-on learning, critics are increasingly saying that the legal academy cannot solve its own problems, partly because of the vested interests of tenured professors tied to an antiquated system. Effective solutions, they insist, will have to be imposed from the outside. . . . Since law schools are regulated by state courts, that means convincing top state judges of the necessity of major change."
"Paula Littlewood, a task force member and the executive director of the Washington State Bar Association, put it this way to her colleagues: 'There’s a time for incremental change and a time for bold change. This is the time for bold change.'"
"Nicholas W. Allard, who became the dean of Brooklyn Law School in New York last summer after a career in government and private practice, said that in the past, graduates of elite schools arrived at major law firms with little knowledge of the actual practice of law. As a result, corporations hiring those firms felt that their large hourly bills were in effect going to train those graduates, who were assigned some of their work. Mr. Allard said those corporations are no longer willing to do that. As a result, he said, law schools need to have far more practical training and closer ties to the legal profession. That has led a number of schools to choose deans from within the profession, like Mr. Allard, rather than from academia."
"Derek M. Tokaz, the research director of Law School Transparency, a legal education policy group that seeks to guide some of the changes, told the gathering that drastic changes were needed in student loans and accreditation. Rather than start with the number of required classroom minutes or student-teacher ratio, Mr. Tokaz said, what students need to know upon graduation should be agreed upon first."
"As the meeting ended, one task force member, Michael P. Downey of St. Louis, summed it up. 'The house is on fire,' he said. 'We don’t want a report that sits on a shelf.'"
These commentators are right; it's time to make major changes in legal education. Law schools need to change their primary mission to one of turning out practice-ready law graduates who can serve the public. They need to change their curricula and their teaching methods. They need to make sure that their students don't graduate with crushing debt. And, the legal profession must make certain that the legal needs of all, rich and poor, are served.
The ABA Task Force may finally be the organization that gets this done.
In an interview with the Business Insider blog, U. Arkansas - Fayetteville Associate Dean and law professor Steven Sheppard says that the law school scam blog movement is behind the precipitous drop in law school applications rather than applicant concerns about high tuition or there being not enough jobs upon graduation.
The Law School Admission Council's numbers indicate that applications for fall semester are on track to reach a 30-year low, the National Law Journal's Karen Sloan has reported.
Sheppard doesn't argue with the numbers, but he does provide an alternate theory of why law school applications have plummeted. Law school hasn't suddenly become a bad investment, according to his theory.
Here's Sheppard's explanation that came in an email to Business Insider:
"The decline in law school applications is as easily explained (and perhaps more accurately explained) by the drumbeat of criticism than by the economics of education or legal employment. This criticism has been initiated by unhappy law students, drop-outs, and graduates, along with critics in the law faculties who have their own axes to grind. It has been amplified by a press and blogosphere that is either not equipped to evaluate the criticism or happy to sell papers by flaming it."