Wednesday, June 24, 2015
A few years ago Richard Neumann and Benjamin Spencer wrote devastating critiques of the Langdellian approach to legal education. Jeremiah A. Ho has written a new critique of the Langdellian method.
This Article, Function, Form, and Strawberries: Subverting Langdell, attempts to bring both the teaching of practice and knowledge on equal footing with each other to avoid student misconceptions of hierarchy that harbor larger professionalism issues. It offers a method for law teachers to incorporate skills teaching actively in the classroom in a way that legitimizes legal reasoning skills on par with the instruction of legal knowledge. In this way, the Article proposes a new normative in the 'New Normal' of legal education: that there should be a continuous engagement with active learning that integrates skills into the doctrinal classroom in a seamless way. The law is a discipline that is brought to life by us and our students very much in part through its practice. We cannot ignore that aspect of this field, nor afford to do so."
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
The one year masters degree program launched last fall and is aimed at students with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds who'd like to some exposure to the law to advance in their careers but are not interested in obtaining a JD. According to the Legaltech News story below, Northwestern just graduated its inaugural class of 30 students and expects to enroll as many as 50 this coming fall. I can't say whether this was Northwestern's motivation but certainly many law schools these days are looking for new markets and creative ways to market their educational product. No doubt will see a lot more of these masters of law programs spring up in the next couple of years. More details about Northwestern's program from Legaltech News:
A new program offered by Northwestern University—designed to bridge the gap between law, business and technology—just graduated its first class from the law school and a larger class will be starting the program in the fall semester.
The university’s masters of science in law degree is one-year program for students with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds. It had 30 students enrolled in 2014-15 and that number is expected to be about 45 or 50 students in 2015-16.
It provides a focus on STEM and lets students learn about law and business as they develop into multi-disciplinary professionals without attending a JD or MBA program, which are longer programs and have different goals. For instance, JD programs often prepare students to practice law. Students at the MSL program do not want to practice, but have personal goals that often relate to current demand in the marketplace.
The students do not attend JD classes, but have their own required courses and electives tailored for the students’ particular interests. Among the required classes are such topics as fundamentals of intellectual property, topics in contract law, liability, risk insurance, ethics, writing and the legal regulatory process. Electives touch on such fields as IP and patent design, business and entrepreneurship, and regulatory strategy.
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Continue reading here.
The technology to stop students from cheating on tests continues to grow more advanced worldwide. It all started last year, when educators in China uncovered a slew of innovative and illicit cheating devices, including glasses equipped with hidden cameras and a wired-up shirt. To combat this, the Chinese government used an anti-cheating drone to monitor students during this year’s college entrance exam.
An even newer area of concern is smartwatches. Multiple universities and test centers around the world have begun banning Apple Watches and their ilk as a precaution during final exams and standardized tests. One ground zero in the classroom smartwatch battle is Australia— according to Mashable, several universities in the land Down Under have imposed strict smartwatch regulations.
You can read more here. The Educational Testing Service already bans digital and smartwatches from testing areas. I don’t know if law schools are following this example.
Monday, June 22, 2015
I think the opening paragraph of this article says it all:
"Yes and no. The higher the rank of your law school, the easier it is to be recruited by the larger firms. However, once you have a job in any firm, your success depends on how good a lawyer and person you are," said Larry B. Sitton of Smith Moore LLP, who graduated cum laude from Wake Forest University in the 60s.
Going to a prestigious school opens doors, but once you are in, you have to work hard and prove yourself. When the law school where I teach began in the 1950s, it surely would have found a home in the cellar for any rankings. However, the students were hungry and hardworking. Many of them became highly prominent lawyers and entrepreneurs. Today, any number of my former students with only respectable grades, but a work ethic, have been very successful.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
The article discusses how the mindfulness movement, which the WSJ describes as a "Zen-inspired blend of meditation, breathing exercises and focus techniques" currently in vogue among many large corporations including Google and General Mills, is gaining popularity among lawyers. The article further notes that about two dozen law schools have to date incorporated aspects of mindfulness training in the curriculum including U. Miami which has created a full blown "Mindfulness in Law" program. Another school offers a course in which students must complete an assignment requiring them to - get this - stare at themselves in a mirror for five minutes and shout "I love me!" Don't believe me? Click on the link and read it for yourself.
Soft winds of change are rustling through the legal profession.
. . . .
It has swept through University of Miami School of Law, whose students this year completed a homework project by deliberately losing an argument.
. . . .
Scott Rogers, founder and director of University of Miami’s “Mindfulness in Law Program” says looser vibes have touched a nerve with younger generations—some of whom are turned off by the perceived nastiness in the profession.
“People are yelling at each other all the time,” says Mr. Rogers, a former commercial litigator who remembers the moment 15 years ago when he realized it’s OK to recognize the humanity in opposing counsel.
Students who take his mindfulness courses earn up to three credits toward their law degree. They all have waiting lists, he says, including the one in which students are instructed to lose an argument. “It’s not about losing a fight or giving up at all,” says Mr. Rogers. “It’s developing greater insight in the ways we lose touch” with our impulses.
His law school is one of about two dozen across the country to incorporate mindfulness exercises into its curriculum.
. . . .
Continue with the WSJ story on mindfulness here.
Neil J. Dilloff, a senior litigation partner at DLA Piper LLP (US) and an adjunct faculty member at both the University of Maryland and the University of Baltimore Schools of Law, has seen legal education from the viewpoints of both a partner and a teacher. He recently wrote an article on legal education reform: Law School Training: Bridging the Gap between Legal Education and the Practice of Law.
The backdrop for the renewed attention to making legal education more practical has been the dismal job market for lawyers, which is now entering its fifth year. Law graduates are scrambling for jobs in a buyer's market. Employers are looking for applicants who have the training, legal maturity, and experience to become instant contributors to the productivity of the firm, corporation, or agency. While few employers expect recent law graduates to be able to meet job demands without some acclimation and on-the-job training, many employers no longer have the time, will, or finances to dedicate to training new lawyers. Accordingly, those law schools that are able to turn out 'finished' work-ready graduates will move to the head of the pack, and their graduates will have a leg up in this uncertain job market. This Article will explore ways for law schools to accomplish this mission."
atmosphere." "Third is 'people skills'. . . . Law students should practice and gain experience in dealing with situations in which there may not be one right answer, but rather, several valid approaches that may differ based on a given client's perspective and motivations." "Fourth is teamwork. Learning to work as a group is a corollary to people skills. All lawyers need to be able to work effectively with others." "Fifth is organizational and time management; i. e., learning how to juggle various projects at once without dropping the ball."
If you click here, you will find photos of 70 foot concrete arrows across the country. The government constructed them to guide the planes of the U.S. Postal Service Air Force as they delivered mail. Perhaps you could use the photos to illustrate how headings and subheadings guide a reader through a document.
Saturday, June 20, 2015
We'd previously blogged about a new (launched in 2013) legal research start-up called Casetext that, among other features, helps legal bloggers reach a larger audience by linking their posts to the cases and statutes they are writing about (here and here). Robert Ambrogi's LawSites blog is now reporting that Casetext has launched yet another feature called LegalPad that helps lawyers publicize their writings on specialized legal topics to the pertinent audiences. As Mr. Ambrogi describes it: "[A]rticles get published to Casetext’s communities and [are] immediately shared with all the users who are members of those communities. The articles also become part of the Casetext database of legal commentary. If an article discusses a case, the article links directly to the case and the case links back to the article."
Casetext's website explains that its online communities consist of a mix of academics, practitioners, law students, in-house counsel and others who are interested in reading legal commentary on specialized areas of practice. According to its website, these online communities are already populated with 50,000 subscribers. You can see a list of these special interest legal practice communities here and learn more about LegalPad's particular features here. And check out Mr. Ambrogi's test drive of LegalPad here.
A study by Robert Boice, reported in his book, Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing as well as in this article, provides concrete evidence that daily writing produces both more writing and more ideas. Boice conducted an experiment with 27 faculty members who wanted to improve their productivity. He divided them into three groups and examined their writing progress for 10 weeks.
Boice instructed Group No. 1 – the abstinent writers – not to schedule any writing sessions but to write only if they felt compelled to. He also asked them to keep a log of creative ideas to write about. The thought behind planned abstinence was that these writers would have a list of creative ideas ready when they finally did feel like writing. Result: The abstinent writers produced an average of 0.2 pages a day and had one creative idea a week.
Boice told Group No. 2 – the spontaneous writers – to schedule writing sessions five days a week for 10 weeks, but encouraged them to write in those sessions only when they were in the mood. They also were asked to use part of the scheduled writing time each day to come up with a new idea to write about. Result: The spontaneous writers produced an average of 0.9 pages a day and one creative idea a week.
Group No. 3 – the forced writers – agreed to a strict accountability plan. They scheduled five writing sessions a week for 10 weeks, and kept a log of creative ideas to write about. To ensure they would write every day, whether or not they felt like it, the members of this group each gave Boice a prepaid check for $25, made out to an organization they despised. If they failed to write in any of their planned sessions, Boice would mail the check. Result: The forced writers produced an average of 3.2 pages a day and one creative idea each day.
I try to write or do the necessary research most days. Of course, other personal and professional responsibilities regularly get in the way. But I think you have to keep at your writing and avoid extended breaks. The breaks keep you from establishing a continuing rhythm.
Friday, June 19, 2015
Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services is a non-profit incubator program interested in hiring a resident attorney to provide environmental counseling and legal representation to modest means clients in the tri-state region of Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Fair Shake provides extensive training in legal practice skills as well as the skills needed to launch a small law office following completion of the two-year program. You can find out more details here. The application deadline is July 31.
Here is a short article that I wrote for At Issue, the newsletter of the Young Lawyers Division of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Here is the opening paragraph:
For advocates of plain English, the last frontier to conquer may be pleadings
and routine motions. Advocates see errors in understanding stemming from unnecessary
redundancy and complexity. But many lawyers are so fearful of changing
from the hidebound style that they overlook how the plain English style can help
them make their arguments clearly and persuasively.
And here is the closing paragraph:
In the early years of practice, you, the novice attorney, may feel compelled to use
timeworn and confusing forms. However, your day will come.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Milbank several years ago started sending new associates to an MBA boot camp at Harvard (and here). And Cleary Gottlieb offered new hires a crash course in business and finance as part of a two-week "mini-MBA program" intended to fill a gap in neglected by their law school training (here and here). Now Skadden has joined the gang by also requiring its new associates to undergo five weeks of intensive business training or what the firm calls a "virtual MBA." The Bloomberg Business blog has more details below. As the story notes, some law schools have picked up the slack in recent years by offering business and finance-oriented courses in an effort to make their students more marketable to employers.
Turning law students into lawyers has traditionally been the job of law schools. One major New York firm has decided three years of traditional legal training is not enough to make its rookies practice-ready.
At Skadden Arps, one of the country’s largest law firms, new hires must undergo five weeks of intensive business training, which they refer to as a mini-“virtual MBA.” The approach is part of a growing push within the legal industry to equip lawyers with a deep understanding of finance and accounting at the start of their careers.
“We were looking for a way to prepare people to hit the ground running,” says Jodie Garfinkel, director of attorney development and professional personnel at Skadden. “We want to prepare people to add as much value as they can, as quickly as they can.”
Skadden's first-year associates, who generally start in September after graduating from law school, learn the basics of income statements, balance sheets, and cash flows. They get a crash course in corporate valuation and learn the fundamentals of mergers and acquisitions. They learn how to talk to clients like an MBA and present their ideas like a chief executive officer. They film themselves giving presentations and review the videos to study their communication style.
“It’s safe to say that it’s the stuff you would learn in your first year in business school, that—at least up until recently—law schools weren’t focusing on,” says Jennifer Pangione, an attorney development manager at the firm.
. . . .
You can continue reading here.
TIAA-CREF has conducted a study of academic retirement patterns. About half of tenured faculty members expect to work willingly beyond normal retirement age (67--the age at which current 50 year olds can collect full Social Security). From the executive summary:
Tenured faculty age 50 or older can divided into three groups—35% expect to retire by normal retirement age; 16% would prefer to retire by normal retirement age, but expect to work longer (i.e., they are “reluctantly reluctant” to retire); and 49% would like to and expect to work past normal retirement age (i.e., they are “reluctant by choice”). The key drivers differ between those reluctantly reluctant and those reluctant by choice.
Not surprisingly, personal finances are a particular barrier for those reluctantly reluctant. Psychosocial factors are the issue with those reluctant by choice. However, one-half to two-thirds of those reluctantly reluctant appear to be assuming a financial barrier given that they have not done a careful evaluation of their retirement finances. A systematic financial review would test such assumptions.
An analogous dynamic exists among those reluctant by choice—anywhere from 60% to 90% have not seriously considered what they could do with their time in retirement.
You can read more here.
Courtesy of the Huffington Post:
Baseball has the minor leagues. Medicine offers residency programs. But recent law school graduates have no equivalent training opportunities to hone their skills - at least until now.
A tight job market for new lawyers and a push to make legal representation more affordable have prompted law schools in California and other states to fund startup law firms.
About two dozen so-called legal incubators or fellowship programs have cropped up nationwide in recent years to teach a few select law graduates the basics of legal practice and expand services to people who otherwise couldn't afford a lawyer. And more schools are set to jump into the mix.
Many of the programs help graduates set up solo practices.
"The idea was to take new lawyers and give them the support that traditionally has not been provided in terms of setting up a business and also inspiring them to spend part or all of their practice doing modest-means work," said Lilys McCoy, who runs The Center for Solo Practitioners at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. The program launched in 2012.
Critics of the incubators, however, question whether the real goal might be to boost law school employment figures and say the incubator programs can only help a small number of graduates.
"Most of these are elite opportunities for individuals," said Jeff Pokorak, vice provost for faculty and curriculum at Suffolk University in Boston, who favors incorporating the practical training the incubators provide into the law school curriculum.
The incubator programs vary greatly in the support they provide graduates a
nd their expectations for pro-bono or low-fee work. At Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California, nine graduates have access to subsidized office space at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County and are supposed to perform at least 300 hours of free legal service. The program, launched this year, includes training in marketing, managing office overhead and tax risks. Much of the funding for this year's class has come from a grant obtained by the legal aid society, so the school's contribution is only in the four figures, said Martin Pritikin, an associate dean who helps run the program.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Regina Nelson, a young lawyer, and my former research assistant, has written a piece in the Legal Intelligencer encouraging her peers to continue to hone their writing skills and to write to further their professional growth. Articles like this encourage students to understand the practical advantages of continuing to write. You can access the article here.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
In this case, former Senator John Danforth, also an Episcopalian priest, testified for a client who won a $77 million judgment. His firm then pushed him out. From the ABA Journal:
A former U.S. senator and state attorney general has exited Bryan Cave—after a career there that dated back to the early 1960s—following friction over his court testimony for a friend’s widow that helped her win a $77 million verdict against Wells Fargo.
The $77 million judgment won by Barbara Morriss last month, with the help of attorney John Danforth’s testimony, is believed to be the largest ever awarded in St. Louis County, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. At issue was the bank’s oversight of a family trust that Morriss alleges was mishandled by her son.
Wells Fargo was represented by a different law firm in the Morriss case but is a major client of Bryan Cave, Danforth told the newspaper.
Danforth is now working for Dowd Bennett in suburban St. Louis. Dowd Bennett represented Morriss in the Wells Fargo litigation, an earlier St. Louis Post-Dispatch article notes.
“The trigger for this was the Morriss trial,” Danforth said of his exit to Dowd Bennett. He told the newspaper he had been asked by Bryan Cave to leave the 1,000-attorney international firm after the Wells Fargo verdict. Although formerly listed as a retired partner there, he still maintained an office at Bryan Cave until recently.
The new 20th edition of the Bluebook is out now and thus West Academic Press plans to publish next month a new user's guide to go along with it called Anthon's The Bluebook Uncovered: A Practical Guide to Mastering Legal Citation. In addition to helping students navigate the Byzantinian citation rules, it also includes several exercises you can assign in class to help test their knowledge of the rules. I've always been partial to a user's guide authored by Alan Dworsky as simple, easy to follow resource for my 1Ls (sans the multiple choice exercises) but so far the publisher hasn't indicating whether a new, revised edition will be forthcoming.
In the meantime, West will be releasing Anthon's user's guide on July 31. The publisher's description is as follows:
This new book provides a fresh, innovative approach that enables students to master the Bluebook citation rules needed in legal research and writing courses and in legal practice. It combines detailed, yet easy-to-understand, explanations and examples of Bluebook rules with different types of exercises, which are also available online. The exercises begin with multiple choice questions that assist students’ mastery of discrete rules, followed by short answer questions that allow students to practice implementing the rules by drafting individual citations. Finally, a comprehensive exercise puts citations in the context of a legal document and requires students to make the necessary corrections. The available answers for all exercises include detailed explanations that further students’ understanding of the applicable rules.
You can check it out further here.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Law Schools and Technology: Where We Are and Where We Are Heading by Michele R. Pistone.
I have long viewed legal education as a generalist education, as opposed to specialized education for a specific legal field. Especially today, students can’t know what their first job will be, much less their second. A posting on Best Practices for Legal Education takes this thought a step further—students need not only a general education in doctrine; they also need a general education in lawyering skills, broadly defined. Here is an excerpt:
[Attorney Leo Flor] noted that the JD is often viewed as a relevant generalist credential, even though most law school grads move into traditional bar-passage-required “law practice” jobs. And he observed that many job postings for alternative positions list an MBA or MPA as a relevant qualification, but not the JD.
The traditional generalist education of my era, and to a significant extent still, was intended to teach a set of analytical skills and and expose students to a broad range of legal doctrine potentially relevant to a general practitioner and to passing the bar exam. Though passing the bar remains important and is a significant factor in designing the educational program for lower tier schools, few 21st century lawyers are truly general practitioners.
Perhaps the generalist foundation needed in this era is built on skills, more than doctrinal knowledge. And for Leo’s purpose not only skills in a technician sense. Skills also in a “professional identity” sense. Self-awareness & understanding of ones’ own gifts. Leadership and interpersonal skills. Such an understanding of generalist could make the JD an appropriate credential for the types of job Leo described.
You can read more here (June 8).