Saturday, February 23, 2013

New legal "skills" scholarship: "An Empirical Study on the Research & Critical Evaluation Skills of Law Students"

This article is by Professors Michelle Wu (Georgetown) and Leslie Lee (George Washington) and available at 31 Legal Ref. Serv. Q. 205 (2012) and here on SSRN.

From the abstract:

Although other researchers have delved into various aspects of legal education, the fundamental analysis of research behavior and the quality of research skills remains somewhat uncharted territory. There have been assessments of the research skills of incoming law students and the effectiveness of various research programs, but little to assess skills and preferences of existing law students. Building on surveys and studies from other disciplines, this article describes an effort to gather empirical data on law students’ legal research practices.

Thirty eight ABA-accredited schools were included in this study, with a total of 3,599 student responses. The sample was diverse, representing law schools with organizational characteristics ranging in size, rank, public or private standing, age, and geography. Both part-time and full-time JD students were included, as were post-JD students.

Part I of this article describes the purpose of the study. Part II describes preliminary considerations relating to the structure, design, and format of the survey, with details on key decisions made during the survey construction process and the useful information such decisions helped to yield. Part III provides a summary of the survey data and our findings. Part IV highlights potential blind spots in the survey and suggests where additional research might be useful, and finally, Part V provides insight into lessons learned through the survey process itself.


February 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Should Law Schools Start Using a Common Admissions Application Form?

An increasing number of undergraduate institutions are having would-be students fill out a common admissions application. The common application reduces the burden on the applicant who otherwise would have to fill out many similar, but not identical, forms:

The Common Application’s ranks will soon grow by 39 institutions, pushing its total membership over 500. The organization announced on Thursday that three new public flagships, including the University of Oklahoma, will join in 2013-14. Purdue and Temple Universities will also accept the popular application.

You can read more here. Maybe law schools should join together to construct their own common admissions application.


February 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 22, 2013

"The Roosevelt-Cardozo Way: The Case for Bar Eligibility After Two Years of Law School"

This article is by Professor Samuel Estreicher (NYU) and is available at 15 N.Y.U. J. Legis. & Pub. Pol'y 599 (2012) and on SRNN here.

This paper argues for a revision of the rules of the New York Court of Appeals to allow students to sit for the bar after two years of law school classes. This revision, reflecting what the rule had been when both President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Associate Justice Benjamin Cardozo attended Columbia Law School, would cut the costs of legal education for many students by 1/3, hence addressing in part the concern that law school debt drives down the availability of public service lawyers. Moreover, such a move would put pressure on law schools to deliver educational services more attuned to the practical needs of their students in order to secure their enrollment for the third year. This is a matter of considerable importance at a time many law schools place fewer than half of their graduates in full-time positions requiring legal training. Although the proposal does not address what law schools do or should do, reducing the law school study requirement for bar eligibility from three to two years may encourage some law schools to embrace a more professional than rather purely academic orientation that should in turn lead to enhanced skills training for students likely to be practising on their own or in small firms not capable of providing sustained training. A better trained solo or small-firm practitioner will better serve the legal needs of Americans of average means.


February 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Makes for Good Academic Leadership?

At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Rob Jenkins lists these characteristics:

  • Listening. A good leader doesn’t think he or she knows everything, or always knows better than other people.
  • Inclusiveness. A good leader not only listens, but listens to lots of different people—and takes their advice and their views into account when making decisions.
  • Delegation. A good leader recognizes the importance of giving up control in certain areas because other people know more about that area and/or bear primary responsibility for it. Inclusiveness and delegation, together, are the essence of shared governance.
  • Sincerity. A good leader doesn’t just pretend to listen or pretend to delegate. He or she doesn’t merely pay lip service to the concept of shared governance or attempt to manipulate the process for personal gain.
  • Decisiveness. Once all sides have had their say, and the decision-making ball is in the leader’s court, he or she will make that decision and accept responsibility for it.
  • Accountability. A good leader is not constantly pointing fingers or blaming others for problems—even if they actually did create them.
  • Optimism. Whatever challenges a unit or institution might face, a good leader is always positive (at least publicly), consistently projecting an attitude of realistic optimism about the future. A good leader can address issues openly and frankly without spreading doom and gloom.
  • Realism. At the same time, a good leader is objective about challenges.
  • Frankness. A good leader tells it like it is. He or she does not pat faculty and staff members on the head and assure them that everything’s going to be OK when it might not be. (Note: Most leaders I’ve known who liked to think of themselves as “straight shooters” earned that reputation by saying unkind things to people, often unnecessarily. To me, that’s not what being a “straight shooter” means.)
  • Self-Effacement. A good leader not only accepts blame; he or she also deflects praise and credit to others. A good leader understands that, when others in the unit earn recognition, that reflects positively on him or her. A good leader does not always have to be the one in the spotlight—and, indeed, may actually shun the spotlight. A good leader is also not primarily concerned with moving up the ladder or making himself or herself look good. The best leaders want others, and the institution, to look good.
  • Collegiality. A good leader does not place himself or herself above rank-and-file faculty and staff members but rather considers them colleagues in the truest sense of that term.
  • Honesty. A good leader is scrupulously honest in all of his or her dealings. No lies, no dissembling, no double-talk or administrative-speak. If the situation warrants, a good leader simply says, “I can’t comment on that right now.”
  • Trustworthiness. If a good leader commits to do something, then he or she does it, if humanly possible—and if not, explains why and accepts responsibility for failure. If one tells a good leader something in confidence, that information remains confidential.
  • Morality. When all is said and done, a good leader can be counted on to do what he or she believes is right and best for all concerned, even if it is unpopular in some quarters.




February 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Former law dean says ABA is to blame for crisis in legal education

Professor and Dean Emeritus James Huffman of Lewis & Clark Law School writes in this Wall Street Journal editorial (subscription required) that the ABA is ultimately to blame for the skyrocketing cost of legal education and a curriculum that favors theory over practice because the ABA's accredition function was long ago co-opted by self-interested academics who have sought to feather their own nests.

Perverse Incentives of the Lawyers Guild

While law school enrollment drops, ABA rules bust the budgets.

Law schools are in trouble. Applications are down almost 50% to an estimated 54,000 this year from 100,000 in 2004.

. . . .

It is a true crisis, and law schools are scrambling to figure out how to manage with fewer tuition-paying students.

. . . .

The ABA should start by looking within: The organization is a major source of the problem. Those large law-school faculties with some of the highest salaries in the academy, the palatial facilities, a persistent emphasis on theory instead of practical-skills training, and a limited reliance on online instruction have all been encouraged, if not mandated, by ABA regulations and the accreditation process.

As often happens with regulatory systems, whether governmental or professional, the ABA accreditation process was long ago captured by legal education's most influential stakeholders. ABA accreditation site-visit teams routinely include a dean, tenured classroom faculty, clinical faculty (historically untenured but now increasingly tenured, thanks to ABA requirements), a librarian, a university administrator and one judge or member of the practicing bar—but no students or consumers of legal services.

Given the powerful influence of faculty (the dean and librarian also are faculty), no wonder the ABA rules require that "the major portion" (at least 80%) of the teaching be done by full-time faculty and that all full-time faculty be eligible for tenure or some equivalent "security of position." But having full-time faculty doing the teaching doesn't mean they are doing it full time. Although students are paying the bills, teaching them is only one of five ABA-mandated faculty functions, including law school and university governance, public service, and, above all else, research and scholarship.

For law schools with ambitions for new and better facilities, the ABA rules provide leverage over parsimonious university administrators by mandating "adequate" resources and physical facilities. The threat of lost accreditation always looms large.

The rules demand a prominent role for faculty in the governance of every aspect of the law school, from budget to admissions and faculty hiring. Faculty numbers have skyrocketed, course offerings have exploded to include specialties unknown to practicing lawyers—which is what can happen if mandates mean you have more teachers than you need and no check on their fancies—and teaching loads have steadily declined.

Faculty also benefit from ABA mandates relating to the curriculum and method of instruction. A total of 58,000 minutes (yes, in minutes) of instruction are required for graduation, of which 45,000 must be in regularly scheduled classes. Online learning is thus discouraged.

The ABA's influence over the accreditation process has come at a significant cost to legal educators. In return for the gift of better facilities, greater job security and a job description of their own design, they have had to accept an inevitable proliferation of rules limiting their ability to experiment, innovate and respond to the changing realities of 21st century law practice.

There is a way out. Instead of the one-size-fits-all approach the ABA has taken for decades, what is needed is some creative competition for the declining pool of prospective students.

. . . .

 Continue reading here.


February 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Three Lessons in Leadership from Donald Rumsfield

Yes, former Secretary of Defense (and former Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity) Donald Rumsfield. When an educational consultant met Rumsfield by chance, he received three pieces of advice about leadership in education:

Managing a crisis: "People must first decide that there is a problem, accept it, define it, and then try to understand it."

Setting goals: "In the military you get what you inspect, not what you expect. Everyone knows what will be inspected, and they pay attention to those things."

Focusing on what works: "Something can also be bold, exciting, new, innovative, and stupid."

You can read a lot more here.


February 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Burden of Proof in Legal Education Reform

Professor James E. Moliterno made an interesting observation in a recent post on the Legal Whiteboard: "in the legal profession and legal education in particular, the status quo never seems to need empirical justification. Only change is suspect and wrong until proven definitively to be otherwise. Is there any empirical evidence that the status quo third year is the best possible third year except that it has been done that way for a long time? None that I know of. The old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ does not apply here. The third year of legal education is ‘broke.’" 

He continued: "Change is not good merely for change’s sake. But it is not prudent to stay the same when the world has changed. The practicing branch has changed; client needs and demands have changed; the society that the legal profession claims to serve has changed. Only legal education (and the organized bar) now remain stubbornly tied to anachronistic ways. The legal profession itself and legal education in particular, live as if they had eyes on the back of their head, but none on their face. Only what is past seems to be valued–Even when what has past has no empirical basis and the conditions in which it exists have dramatically changed."

Of course, those who are advocating change do have a responsibility for supporting the need for the change and effectiveness of that change. However, Professor Moliterno has a point, those who support traditional ways of legal education also have a responsibility of providing evidence that the traditional methods work better than the proposed changes.

This is especially true in light of the clear evidence that traditional legal education is not working. The Carnegie Report, the McCrate Report, Best Practices in Legal Education, and numerous scholarly articles have established that there are major flaws in traditional legal education. Has anyone proven these reports wrong? Are their methodologies flawed? Do they lack adequate support for their claims? I have not seen any study that successfully refutes these reports.

While it will take some time to study the effectiveness of reform on legal education, the methods being advocated by reformers have been shown to be effective in other areas of education. Over the last twenty years, there has been an avalanche of books and articles on active learning, self-regulated learning, expert learning, teaching metacognition, teaching reflection, and experiential learning. It is time that legal education adopt this new scholarship, rather than "remain[ing] stubbornly tied to anachronistic ways."

(Scott Fruehwald)

February 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A college degree is the new high school diploma

We are deep in the midst of "degree inflation" in this country which is the result of more people getting college degrees and a buyer's market where fierce competition for jobs means heavily indebted college grads are grateful to find jobs they would have previously turned down.  Just ask any recent law school grad who's doing the work formerly done by paralegals or any law school applicant who decides to matriculate despite all the bad publicity coming out of law schools.  For many, it still looks better than working at Starbucks.

It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk

The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job.

Consider the 45-person law firm of Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh here in Atlanta, a place that has seen tremendous growth in the college-educated population. Like other employers across the country, the firm hires only people with a bachelor’s degree, even for jobs that do not require college-level skills.

This prerequisite applies to everyone, including the receptionist, paralegals, administrative assistants and file clerks. Even the office “runner” — the in-house courier who, for $10 an hour, ferries documents back and forth between the courthouse and the office — went to a four-year school.

. . . .

Even if they are not exactly applying the knowledge they gained in their political science, finance and fashion marketing classes, the young graduates employed by Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh say they are grateful for even the rotest of rote office work they have been given.

“It sure beats washing cars,” said Landon Crider, 24, the firm’s soft-spoken runner.

He would know: he spent several years, while at Georgia State and in the months after graduation, scrubbing sedans at Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Before joining the law firm, he was turned down for a promotion to rental agent at Enterprise — a position that also required a bachelor’s degree — because the company said he didn’t have enough sales experience.

His college-educated colleagues had similarly limited opportunities, working at Ruby Tuesday or behind a retail counter while waiting for a better job to open up.

“I am over $100,000 in student loan debt right now,” said Megan Parker, who earns $37,000 as the firm’s receptionist. She graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta in 2011 with a degree in fashion and retail management, and spent months waiting on “bridezillas” at a couture boutique, among other stores, while churning out office-job applications.

“I will probably never see the end of that bill, but I’m not really thinking about it right now,” she said. “You know, this is a really great place to work.”

Continue reading here.


February 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rutgers Dean argues for post-grad apprenticeships for new attorneys

In this Op-Ed from the New York Times, Dean John J. Farmer, Jr. argues that law schools should require post-graduate apprenticeships modeled on medical school residency programs.

To Practice Law, Apprentice First

. . . .

The job market for law school graduates is collapsing; some schools have been misleading, or even fraudulent, in reporting admissions and employment data; tuition and student debt have reached record levels. Some question legal education itself: What is its mission? What value does it add?

Those are legitimate questions. But to answer them for legal education, we also need to ask them of the profession.

Consider this: Nearly half of those who graduated from law school in 2011 did not quickly find full-time, long-term work as lawyers. Yet the need for legal representation has never been greater. In New Jersey, where I teach law, 99 percent of the 172,000 defendants in landlord-tenant disputes last year lacked legal counsel.

Nationwide, judges decry not a surplus of lawyers, but a lack of competent representation for those who aren’t rich individuals and corporations.

. . . .

There is a way out. Law schools and the legal profession could restore a vibrant job market by making representation easier to obtain. In doing so, they would revive their historic commitment to the balance between acquiring wealth and promoting civic virtue.

The New York State courts took a step in that direction recently by requiring pro bono service as a condition for admission to the bar. That is laudable, but many law schools already encourage or require pro bono service. That proposal doesn’t address the deeper problem: the disconnect between cost and need.

That disconnect relates to how lawyers are hired. Big firms have been hiring a few graduates from a few select schools, and paying them exorbitantly. The result: These law-firm associates provide services, like document review or memo drafting, at rates that their competence and experience don’t merit. In a recession, clients resist paying the rates; now, firms resist hiring new lawyers.

Let’s scrap this system. We need, at its entry level, the equivalent of a medical residency. Law school graduates would practice for two years or so, under experienced supervision, at reduced hourly rates; repaying their debts could be suspended, as it is for medical residents.

Law firms would be able to hire more lawyers, at the lower rates, and give talented graduates of less prestigious institutions a chance to shine. The firms, at the end of the residencies, could then select whom to keep. Even for those who don’t make the cut, the residency will have provided valuable experience. The law firms should be required, under this proposal, to offer stipends to help those residents who don’t make the cut but have debt burdens.

. . . .

Continue reading here.


February 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Success in the 21 Century Requires Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance

Beyond knowledge and skills, what assets will students need in the coming years? According to a draft report by the U.S. Department of Education, they will need grit, tenacity, and perseverance. Although the report focuses on very young people and adolescents, its conclusions certainly apply to our students as well. Here is a link to the lengthy report. And here are its definitions of its key terms:

Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest

over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty

individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is

stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to

change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.


Academic tenacity is about the mindsets and skills that allow students:

• To look beyond short-term concerns to longer-term or higher-order goals, and

• To withstand challenges and setbacks to persevere toward these goals.


Academic perseverance refers to a student’s tendency to complete school

assignments in a timely and thorough manner, to the best of one’s ability, despite

distractions, obstacles, or level of challenge…To persevere academically requires

that students stay focused on a goal despite obstacles (grit or persistence) and

forego distractions or temptations to prioritize higher pursuits over lower pleasures

(delayed gratification, self-discipline, self-control).


February 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Classroom technology tips for digital natives

The ProfHacker column over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed makes the point that just because our students are digital natives doesn't mean they know how to use technology as well or efficiently as their teachers assume.  Accordingly, author George Williams has compiled some basic tips and shortcuts directed at students who want to make better use of their laptops for school work.

Basic Technology Advice for Students

This semester, I’ve begun maintaining a list of tips and links under the heading “Basic Technology Advice.” The more frequently I teach in a computer classroom, the more frequently I identify things that students do (or don’t do) that can make using a computer a slower or more frustrating process than it needs to be. One example is the use of the keyboard instead of the mouse. I was somewhat surprised that most students don’t use keyboard shortcuts for commons tasks like copy, cut, paste, and save (clicking, instead, on the application menus at the top of the screen). But I was really surprised that few of them knew to use ALT-TAB to quickly switch between applications in Windows. It’s not that using keyboard commands represents some kind of super-seekrit expertise; rather, it’s that tasks can take so much longer when you rely on the mouse (over and over and over again) instead of relying on keyboard shortcuts.

I’ve uploaded my “Basic Technology Advice” document to GoogleDrive, and anyone can comment on it there. (If you sign in with your GoogleDrive account first, it will be easier to keep track of whose comments are whose.) The document is licensed Creative Commons for re-use, so please feel free to copy it and alter it for your own purposes. If you do so, I’d appreciate getting a link so that I can see what you’ve done with it.


February 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Times Editorial Criticizes Online Courses

I have been critical of online courses because of their lack of interaction between teacher and student and because they are not amenable to the best teaching methods.  The New York Times has published an editorial that is also critical of online courses.

The editorial states, "First, student attrition rates — around 90 percent for some huge online courses — appear to be a problem even in small-scale online courses when compared with traditional face-to-face classes. Second, courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed."

The writer continues, "Online classes are already common in colleges, and, on the whole, the record is not encouraging. . . .  The picture the studies offer of the online revolution is distressing."

"Lacking confidence as well as competence, these students need engagement with their teachers to feel comfortable and to succeed. What they often get online is estrangement from the instructor who rarely can get to know them directly."

However, "Interestingly, the center found that students in hybrid classes — those that blended online instruction with a face-to-face component — performed as well academically as those in traditional classes. But hybrid courses are rare, and teaching professors how to manage them is costly and time-consuming."

A commentor added, "Online education is inferior for role modeling to students, assisting struggling students and allowing students to learn from each other in in-class discussions (which are in NO way replicated by online discussion boards)."

In sum, learning needs teacher and student interaction.  You may be able to do that remotely, but not in large classes.

(Scott Fruehwald)

February 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prison Grievances: Showing Prisoners How to Write Effectively

I have received my copy of Terri Leclercq’s new book, Prison Grievances: When to Write, How to Write. Here is a description:

This entertaining and educational graphic novel teaches inmates how to think through a jail or prison problem and then write a grievance about it. Written with 5th-grade vocabulary and syntax, it engages readers with plot and character development. Grievances must conform to the stringent rules of the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act and the rules of particular jails or prison systems. This novel teachers those rules. It also warns against frivolous and malicious filings. Endorsed by Sister Helen (Dead Man Walking) and over 700 human and civil rights groups, this much-needed novel is priced just right--and needed right now. 

Wehen I was in law school at the University of Texas (before Terri’s time there), I spent a summer working in a federal prison. I saw how limited prisoners were in being able to access information and in being able to express themselves in writing. Terri’s book makes a great contribution. You can learn more on her blog, here. You can also learn how to make a financial contribution that will permit sending more copes to prison libraries.


February 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Richard Susskind has a new book for new lawyers

The author of the highly influential The End of Lawyers? has a new book to be released on March 1 called Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future which is aimed specifically at both brand new and aspiring lawyers  A few advance reviews are available on Amazon here while the publisher's synopsis is below.

In his latest book, Richard claims that legal institutions and lawyers are poised to change more radically over the next two decades than they have over the last two centuries.

The future of legal service, he says, will be neither Grisham nor Rumpole. Instead, it will be a world of virtual courts, Internet-based global legal businesses, online document production, commoditized service, legal process outsourcing, and web-based simulated practice. Legal markets will be liberalized, with new jobs, and new employers, for lawyers.

Tomorrow’s Lawyers is a guide to this future – for young and aspiring lawyers, and for all who want to modernize our legal and justice systems. It navigates the new legal terrain and offers practical guidance for those who intend to build careers and businesses in law.

Tomorrow’s Lawyers is divided into three parts. The first offers an updated restatement of Susskind's views on the future of legal services, identifying the key drivers of change, and presenting strategies for coping with the radical changes in the legal market. In the second part, the author sketches out his predictions for the new legal landscape, including the future for law firms, the shifting role of in-house lawyers, and the coming of virtual hearings and online dispute resolution. The final part focuses on the prospects for aspiring lawyers, and equips young lawyers with penetrating questions to put to their current and future employers.


February 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Training “Practice Ready” Students Requires Training “Client Ready” Lawyers

Training practice ready students is the current cliché in legal education. But, as Professor Ruth Anne Robbins (Rutgers-Camden) points out in her piece in the National Law Journal, the discussion often leave out the need to teach students  to work with clients and understand their needs. Law graduates need to be “client ready.” Here are a few excerpts from her valuable article:

What lawyers and the public actually want from law graduates is a sense of how to work with clients. Lawyers are paid to counsel clients and to advocate for their clients, whether they are people, companies, governments or nonprofits. As FMC Technologies Inc.'s general counsel, Jeffrey W. Carr, said in the 2011 New York Times article, "The fundamental issue is that law schools are not capable of producing people who are capable of being counselors."

Learning the judgment needed to counsel or advocate requires students to engage with the nuances of a client's situation: the needs and goals in the legal matter at hand. To understand the situation, law students must grapple with the messy process of finding and understanding the facts. Otherwise, law graduates are left questioning the utility of something as elementary as using narrative structure for legal argument. Even the act of telling a story becomes foreign by graduation. Professor Ken Chestek of the University of Wyoming College of Law, in 2010, published a study of the persuasive effect of story in legal briefs, and was startled to discover that the only practitioners who were unsure of the persuasive effect of storytelling for a client were those who had just graduated from law school.

Skills courses will remain hollow until the professors fill them with real or real-seeming clients. Simulations will never substitute for live client contact, but they can certainly be infused with vivid detail that will allow students to work through the nature of clients.


February 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Students Rank Law Schools

Graduate has released some interesting rankings: how law students rank their schools for academic competitiveness, social life, and manageable workload. Here are the results:

Academic Competitiveness- Is the level of peer competition healthy, is it cut-throat or is it somewhere in between?
Social Life- Is it easy for law students to meet people and make friends and/or date.
Manageable Workload- Is the workload generally manageable? Is law school work pertinent, practical, and constructive or just busy work?

The rankings are based solely on surveys completed by graduate students and use a 10 star system (with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the best) and verbatim answers submitted by 4,000 students (including those currently enrolled and recent grads) from over 150 accredited law schools across the United States.

The following law schools were ranked highest for Academic Competitiveness:

1. Vanderbilt University
2. Stanford University
3. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
4. Baylor University
5. Cornell University

Top five for Social Life:

1. Washington University in St. Louis
2. University of California-Berkeley
3. The University of Texas at Austin
4. University of Colorado at Boulder
5. Stanford University

Top five for Manageable Workloads:

1. Baylor University
2. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
3. Cornell University
4. University of Miami
5. Columbia University


February 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What Legal Education Reform Is And Is Not About

There has been a lively discussion on the PrawfsBlawg over the past few days on legal education reform. However, some of the posts and comments displayed a misconception of what legal education reform is about. While I (and Brian Tamanaha) tried to clear up some of these misconceptions, I think a longer post is needed.

1. Legal education reformers do not want to teach law students simple tasks like finding the courthouse.

Some critics of legal education reform have accused legal education reformers of wanting to teach students to find the courthouse and fill out simple forms. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those who are attacking legal education reform on this ground are just trying to set up a strawman.

Legal education reformers want more sophistication and deeper learning, not less. In addition to doctrine and legal theory, we want to teach students to apply that doctrine and theory to facts–to become problem solvers who can deal with real world problems. First, education scholars have shown that students remember better when they apply knowledge to facts because repetition and application strengthen the neurons where knowledge is stored in long-term memory. Second, manipulation and application of knowledge creates deeper learning (greater understanding and more uses for the knowledge). For example, if a student can successfully apply the parole evidence rule to a set of facts, that student understands the parole evidence rule. Third, theory still has a place. You have to be able to understand the reasons behind a rule to properly apply it to a problem.

In addition, as Jim Moliterno recently pointed out on the Legal Whiteboard, legal education reform is not anti-academic: "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." He added: "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." He also remarked, in the Washington & Lee Third Year program, "students learn the relevant substantive law, but they learn it the way lawyers do rather than the way students do. They learn law to solve a client’s problem. This alone is an activity that adjusts students’ mental pathways from student to lawyer. . . . [For example, in the Lawyer for Failing Businesses,] "students learn the relevant substantive law, but they learn it the way lawyers do rather than the way students do. They learn law to solve a client’s problem. This alone is an activity that adjusts students’ mental pathways from student to lawyer."

Finally, I don’t remember where I read this idea, but it sums up this section nicely: studying what lawyers do is an academic subject.

2. Legal education reformers do not want to destroy everything in the current law schools model; rather reformers want to add to the current law school model.

Some critics have accused legal education reformers of wanting to banish theory and philosophy completely from law schools and send it to graduate schools. They have also criticized legal education reformers of wanting to eliminate the Socratic/casebook method and to prevent law professors from doing scholarship. None of this is true.

First, most legal education reformers do not object to the Socratic/casebook method when it is used properly. I believe that this method does develop thinking skills that practicing lawyers need. What we want is to add other teaching methods that education scholars have shown to be effective, such as experiential learning, problem-solving, teaching reasoning and skills explicitly, etc. These other approaches help students learn in ways that the Socratic/casebook method can’t.

For example, in teaching students a unit in a first-year class, why not adopt this approach? Start by giving a lecture that introduces the students to the topic. Next, discuss cases, using the Socratic method, to help the students understand the details of the topic. Finally, give the students problem-solving exercises to do over night then discuss them in class the next day.

Second, most reformers do not what to eliminate philosophy and theory classes from the curriculum. These classes give students thinking skills that they will need in practice. However, we think that students need more than just practice and theory.

Finally, legal education reformers do not want to eliminate scholarship from a professor’s job description. Reformers just want a better balance between teaching and scholarship. As Brian Tamanaha pointed out in a comment on the PrawfsBlawg, most reformers do esoteric scholarship in addition to their work on legal education.

3. Legal education reform will not create a great deal of new work for law professors.

Many critics of legal education reform are concerned about the new methods creating a much greater workload for law professors. It won’t. Publishers, like Carolina Academic Press and LexisNexis, have already issued casebooks and textbooks that contain what is needed to better educate our students. These books contain (in addition to cases) numerous short and long problem solving exercises, graphic organizers. professionalism materials, etc. Similarly, Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers has numerous portfolios on its website, which show how other law professors have incorporated new ways of teaching into their courses. The materials are there; we just need to use them.


I hope I have achieved my purpose of clarifying what legal education reform is and is not about. In discussing this topic, we need to focus on what is at issue, not at strawmen.

(Scott Fruehwald)

February 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Scholarship money available to law students seeking public interest jobs this summer.

The scholarships are worth $500.00 each and are made possible through the generosity of the blog  The details are below and then click on the link to apply.

Ms. JD is pleased to be offering $500 scholarships for law students working in public interest law this summer. 

This year's essay topic asks applicants to explain their philosophy as a public interest attorney.  How do you believe the law serves as a vehicle for social change? How could your desired public interest position/career impact an issue you believe is important?

Ms. JD is thrilled to continue our annual support of women pursuing public interest careers, as part of our ongoing efforts to support mentoring and career development at home and abroad.  We will feature blog posts from our winners throughout the summer, and hope to start a discussion about the unique role of women public interest attorneys in the profession.

Unpaid judicial externs also qualify for these scholarships. Students need not have a placement at the time of their application, but must send an offer letter to Ms. JD by the beginning of the summer.


February 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Academic Support Conference May 28-30

There is a new academic support conference from May 28-30 in Las Vegas being sponsored by AASE (“Association of Academic Support Educators”).  It looks like they have a really good panel of speakers.  You can find more information here.

(Scott Fruehwald)  (hat tip: George Mader)

February 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Senator Rubio’s Sip of Water

Senator Rubio’s Sip of Water

In case you missed Senator Marco Rubio’s inartful grab for the water bottle in his reply to President Obama’s State of the Union address, please click here.

Lessons to be learned:

  1. If you really need the sip of water, please go ahead.
  2. Have the water in a glass.
  3. Place the glass right next to you and not out of reach.
  4. Don’t try to maintain eye contact with the audience while you are drinking.


February 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)