Thursday, January 22, 2015
"We Should Not Rely on Commercial Bar Reviews to Do Our Job: Why Labor-Intensive Comprehensive Bar Examination Preparation Can and Should Be a Part of the Law School Mission"
This is a new article by Professor Mario Mainero (Chapman) and available on SSRN here. From the abstract:
Increasingly, law school bar passage rates are an important concern for faculty and administration, as well as students. The July 2014 bar exam saw a precipitous drop nationally in bar passage rates, including declines ranging from four to over twenty percentage points. At the same time, there have been declines in applications to law schools, declines in admissions statistics (LSAT and undergraduate GPA), and an empirically demonstrable decline in student preparedness for law school. The confluence of these events portends even greater declines in bar passage if law schools do not rethink how they prepare students for the bar exam. This Article examines developments in academic support and bar preparation programs with an eye toward suggesting models for effective in-house bar preparation programs. Specifically, this Article examines: (1) the evolution of academic support programs in law schools to include bar passage programs, with a brief description of the types of programs that traditionally have been available; (2) the particular difficulty posed by the California Bar Exam; (3) the existing types of supplemental programs, and concerns posed by programs that are limited to “bar tips” or even limited practice exams or substantive lectures, given the increased numbers of “at risk” students due to the increase in underpreparedness; (4) the supplemental program at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, including the intensity of effort required of both faculty and students in a comprehensive program applicable to all students; and finally, (5) the bar passage results at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law since adoption of a comprehensive supplemental bar passage program, that have been significantly better than would be expected by some commentators, given its ranking and relative youth as a law school. This Article suggests that the traditional focus of academic support programs, including bar preparation programs, that focus largely on perceived “at risk” students, is insufficient in light of the increased numbers of underprepared students. In order to avoid further calamitous declines in bar passage rates, law schools will have to move from traditional academic support models to models that encourage the entire cohort of students to work together, cooperatively, and that apply extensive time and effort to ensure that all students receive the benefit of these programs.
Tina Stark has announced that she has retired from teaching effective December 31, 2014. She plans to continue writing, teaching, consulting, and attending conferences.
Professor Stark has been one of the most important innovators in legal education. She is especially known for advocating that contract drafting be taught as a regular course in law school, and she wrote a seminal text on contracts, Drafting Contracts: How & Why Lawyers Do What They Do, Second Edition (Aspen Coursebook). A few years ago, she declared,
"Perhaps our biggest challenge is convincing our schools that they should expand their transactional skills curricula. We have for years labored in the shadows of litigation skills training–something our colleagues understand and, therefore, support. Deal work they do not get. No one is researching cases, and appellate briefs are nowhere to be seen. Most of our colleagues are not quite sure what we do or why it has anything to do with law, but they know they do not want anything to do with it." (here)
Professor Stark's ideas have caused us to change how we conceive of and teach law:
"Deal lawyers start from the business deal. The terms of the business deal are the deal lawyer’s facts. The lawyer must then find the contract concepts that best reflect the business deal and use those concepts as the basis of drafting the contract provisions. I call this skill 'translating the business deal into contract concepts.' Mastering it is the first steppingstone to becoming a deal lawyer. All else flows from this skill. It is the foundation of a deal lawyer’s professional expertise and problem-solving ability. Without it, negotiating and drafting are abstractions." (here at 224)
Nobody in my generation was taught to think of contracts like that!
You can find her most recent views on legal education here. Among the ideas in this address are that
1. Law schools should teach the basic courses in modules--"one module for each of the three umbrella practice areas: litigation, transactions, and legislation/regulation,"
2. Law schools should use teaching techniques in addition to the Socratic approach, and
3. Law schools should establish a six-credit English composition prerequisite for admission to law school.
She added, “Students are graduating with licenses to practice in any area of law. They need not have the skills of a practitioner of ten years, but they must be well-prepared for entry level practice.”
Tina is much loved in the legal writing and legal skills communities. She has mentored many novice professors, and we have all benefitted from attending her lectures and worksh0ps. We hope to keep seeing her at conferences and reading her articles for many years to come.
If you are looking for a short article for your students on email etiquette, you might consider “Email Netiquette for Lawyers,” republished in “Senior Lawyer” by the New York State Bar Association (here). Judge Gerald Lebowitz offers sensible and sound advice that should help the reader use email effectively and avoid pitfalls.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Whittier has started a new incubator program for recent grads that offers them free office space, staff, training and mentoring in exchange for which they provide discounted legal services to low income clients referred by the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, CA. The Daily Pilot has more details:
. . . .
A new program at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa gives recent graduates like Hiraizumi office space and more. It matches them with low-income clients, who get a break on the cost of legal services. The clients, referred by the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, earn too much to qualify for free legal advice from the society.
Ten attorneys were chosen for the Whittier Legal Access Program, which started last week. Participants are provided office space, staff, training and mentoring. Most are recent grads who aim to strike out on their own rather than join a large firm.
"It provides a leg up," Hiraizumi said. "It's hard to get clients on your own when you don't have experience to back you up."
. . . .
Marty Pritikin, Whittier Law School associate dean, said he modeled the program on Touro Law Center's law firm "incubator" at City University of New York. In recent years, more than a dozen similar programs have sprung up around the country, including two in San Diego, he said.
"My view is law schools need to rethink their relationship to their grads," Pritikin said. "Education and training doesn't end when they graduate."
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Hat tip to the JD Journal.
Let Me Recommend “The Legal Writing Companion” by Kristen Murray & Jessica Wherry Clark (Carolina Academic Press), a supplementary book for first year Legal Writing courses (here). The authors begin each subsection with a concern that we often have heard from students and proceed to answer the concern with practical advice and examples.
For example, Chapter 4 begins: I’m Having Trouble Organizing My Analysis
The chapter then has 3 sub-concerns:
Problem: I Don’t Know How to Use the Law to Organize My Analysis
Problem: My Organization Is Fact- Based Instead of Issue- Based
Problem: I Don’t Understand Umbrella Sections
After each, the authors respond with direct and helpful guidance. I think students will like this format and appreciate the guidance.
Here is an excerpt from the book’s promotional material:
Organized by eight common “problem” areas, the book uses a fictional case file to work through a series of problems and includes samples of both strong and weak writing choices. Chapters 1-3 identify and discuss common challenges during the prewriting stage, including the transition to writing a full first draft. Chapters 4-6 focus on organizing legal analysis, writing and explaining legal rules, and applying law to facts. Chapter 7 discusses problems and solutions related to the smaller components of legal writing, and Chapter 8 troubleshoots common polishing errors, from overuse of legalese to common citation problems. There are also two complete annotated memos in the Appendices to pull together the themes presented in the text and show multiple models of successful finished products. Early reviewers responded overwhelmingly positively, wishing they’d had the book as a first-year legal writer.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
A Primer on Professionalism for Doctrinal Professors by Paula Schaefer.
This Article considers how and why doctrinal professors should address the challenge of integrating professionalism into the classroom. Part I briefly discusses the multitude of meanings ascribed to attorney professionalism and argues that the lack of a clear, concise, and shared definition is a substantial barrier to effectively incorporating professionalism into the law school curriculum. Next, Part II provides a more coherent, streamlined definition of attorney professionalism. This Part also identifies and describes three primary aspects of lawyer professionalism: fulfilling duties to clients, satisfying duties to the bar, and possessing core personal values essential to being a good lawyer. This simplified conception of professionalism should begin to address the concerns of professors who do not know where to begin to incorporate professionalism into their classes. It is also intended to persuade skeptics that professionalism is something they can and should teach as part of their doctrinal classes.
Thereafter, Part III provides guidance for developing course outcomes that connect course subject matter and professionalism. Questions prompt doctrinal professors to look for the natural connections between their course subject matter and issues of professionalism. Then, Part IV considers various methods doctrinal professors can use to introduce professionalism topics into their courses. Integrating professionalism into the classroom does not require professors to abandon their casebooks; using case law can be an effective method. This Part also considers other teaching methods and materials for combining doctrine, skills, and professionalism. Finally, Part V concludes with thoughts on how students benefit when professors make the effort to incorporate professionalism into every law school classroom.
I often encourage my students to write like Hemingway—a clear, direct writing style. Here, I offer three quotes from Hemingway concerning F. Scott Fitzgerald:
Scott took LITERATURE so solemnly. He never understood that it was just writing as well as you can and finishing what you start.
Letter to Arthur Mizener (1950)
You have to go on when it is worst and most helpless—there is only one thing to do with a novel and that is to go straight on through to the end of the damn thing.
Letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald (1929)
[F. Scott Fitzgerald’s] talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly anymore because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.
From “A Moveable Feast”
I am awestruck by the third passage. I found these quote in “Ernest Hemingway on Writing (Larry W. Phillips ed. Scribner 1984) (here).
At National Jurist, Hillary Mantis interviews Legal aid attorney Denise Fabiano about her career path. Here is an excerpt:
What would you recommend that interested law students do to gain the necessary experience to be marketable for a career as a public defender?
Taking advantage of criminal law clinics while in school is ideal. Securing summer positions — even if it means volunteering — is extremely helpful in not only gaining experience, but developing contacts in the field.
How do they generally hire?
They post job announcements on their website, so be proactive about checking an organization’s website. They often hire former interns.
Do public defender’s offices generally hire summer interns?
Yes, they hire summer interns. Be prepared to apply early in the fall before the summer in which you hope to intern!
I would add using networking to meet people n the field. The advice may seem simple to experienced law professors, but not necessarily old hat to our students. You can read more here.
Yesterday, I mentioned that Lexis will be issuing Deborah Maranville, Lisa Radtke Bliss, Carolyn Wilkes Kaas, and Antoinette Sedillo López (eds.), Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World in a few months. Contributors have already started to post chapters on SSRN.
Pathways, Integration, and Sequencing the Curriculum by Deborah A. Maranville & Cynthia Batt
Transfer of Learning by Deborah A. Maranville
Ensuring Effective Education in Alternative Clinical Models by Deborah A. Maranville
Incorporating Experiential Education Throughout the Curriculum by Deborah A. Maranville, Cynthia A. Batt, Lisa Bliss, & Carolyn Wilkes Cass
A Conscious Institutional Strategy for Expanding Experiential Education by Lisa Bliss & Deborah A. Maranville
Faculty Status and Institutional Effectiveness by Deborah A. Maranville, Ruth Anne Robins, & Kristen Conrad Tiscione
Delivering Effective Education in In-House Clinics by Lisa Bliss & Don Peters
Monday, January 19, 2015
ATL is reporting on a study conducted by Yale Law School that found 70% of law students who responded to a survey asking about the status of their mental health indicated they had indeed struggled with depression and other mental health issues at some point during law school. (Here's a link to the Yale Daily News which has summarized the 120 page report). A shockingly high number to say the least. Excerpts of the study published by ATL indicate that student stress is the result of a number of different pressures, real and perceived, including "palpable" competition between classmates, the emphasis by "students, faculty and administrators" to "win the rat race," the fear of being perceived as "stupid," and the fear of appearing weak for admitting that the pressures of law school can be overwhelming.
Depression and mental health issues among law students have been reasonably well documented before but ATL's Joe Patrice opines that the off-the-chart figures in the Yale study could have something to do with the unique, over-achieving personalities of Yalies.
Perhaps the most troubling finding in the study is that apparently "no one" seeks help due to the stigma attached to admitting that one is struggling with a mental health issue. Here's an excerpt from the ATL story:
The pervasive mental health issues plaguing the legal profession are well-established. As an occupation, lawyers are more prone to clinical depression and substance abuse problems. At its very worst, lawyers can turn to suicide at an alarmingly high rate.
Last month, we linked to a Yale Daily News article about a study revealing “widespread” mental health troubles. But now that we’ve sat down with the full 102-page report, it’s clear that the original article didn’t do justice to the study’s troubling findings. In a nutshell, a large segment of law students face mental health issues and most students don’t seek help, not that the law schools — and the universities that support them — offer much assistance anyway.
. . . .
Despite the widespread incidence of mental health issues, the report reveals that, unsurprisingly, no one seeks help fearing the stigma attached to admitting they need help (and the problem is worse for men than women, straight people than LGBT people, students of color than whites, and poor students than rich students). Seeking help is thought to be admitting a weakness, or demonstrating unworthiness to the professors who can guide your future career. Even more debilitating, most students fail to understand what a mental health diagnosis might mean for their admission to the bar. Nothing can dissuade someone from getting help more than the fear that they’ll never get a job if they speak up.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
“State and Local Law News” offers a helpful and succinct summaries of cases that the Supreme Court is hearing this term—previews and coming attractions. The cases may generate ideas for new Legal Writing problems. You can access the summaries here. And on top of these cases, the Court has decided to hear four same-sex marriage cases (Here, from the "Atlantic").
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Later this year, Lexis will be issuing Deborah Maranville, Lisa Radtke Bliss, Carolyn Wilkes Kaas, and Antoinette Sedillo López (eds.), Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World. (Lexis 2015). This book is a follow up to CLEA's Best Practices for Legal Education (2007). Delivering Effective Education in In-House Clinics by Lisa Bliss and Don Peters is a chapter from the new book.
This section of Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World reviews the context in which clinics present as a choice among burgeoning experiential education models. It addresses how clinics contribute to student learning and development so that institutions understand the particular advantages that the in-house law clinic model offers to students, clients, and the institutions themselves. The section explores the essential characteristics of in-house law clinics and expands on the understanding of how legal education through in-house clinics meets multiple objectives for legal education. Those essential characteristics provide a specialized context for student learning and include the intensive supervision students receive, the structures used to deliver the clinical learning experience, the use of developed clinical teaching methodologies, and a forum ideally suited for teaching particular topics that are most effectively taught in context. Although learning objectives vary among clinics based upon the clinic mission and design, common learning objectives exist across clinics, and this section identifies the range of those common objectives. Finally, this section explores the value that in-house law clinics add to their institutions and their communities, and identifies practices for maximizing the value of clinics and promoting the effectiveness of law school clinical programs."
Recently, I finished my grading for the past semester. That’s always a relief. In my Advanced Legal Writing course, I gave the students two sections of a poorly written brief. I asked them to revise the sections based on what they had learned and to write me a commentary explaining their revisions. The arguments in both sections turned on interpreting and applying statutes—statutes that were quite short and understandable.
To my surprise, most students did not quote the statutes in full. Either they paraphrased the statutes or included a phrase in each statute as part of a textual sentence. I would have expected them to quote the statute up front or after a brief introduction. Why?
I’m not sure. They may have taken too much to heart the bias against including quotations in their work. They may not have understood that the arguments centered on the statutes and that this fact required quoting the statutes. (If the statutes were very long, they could have quoted pertinent parts, but in full sentences.) Because of their first year grounding in case law, they may not have understood the importance of statutes in this “Age of Statutes.”
In any case, I know one topic that I will cover the next time I teach the course. Let me be clear that we have an excellent introductory Legal Writing curriculum. But the students have to hear and apply the lessons during all three years of law school.
Here's the answer:
But there are jobs to be had out West. In fact, the Mountain region ranks as the best legal job market for entry-level graduates, thanks to strong demand in Utah, Colorado and Nevada. The National Jurist analyzed data from NALP's Jobs & JDs Class of 2013 report, and employment data from the American Bar Association, to determine which job markets have the most job opportunities per competition.
To do so it looked at ratio of jobs to graduates, school placement rates, and the number of job seekers in a region. It divided the country into 20 regions. While New York firms employ far more law graduates than employers in any other region, there is also stiff competition for those jobs. Still, New York placed fourth in the analysis. Texas placed second, followed by Georgia at No. 3. Illinois placed fifth.
You can read more here
A time of remembrance and service. Here is how my university is observing the celebration:
2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration
Next week, our campus will join together to mark the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., PhD, with five days of activities. Kicking things off will be a Day of Service on Monday when hundreds of Villanovans will make it a day on, not a day off by volunteering at sites throughout the region. Volunteer registration is available online through Friday, January 16.
Other events planned as part of this year's Celebration include a keynote speech on January 20 delivered by Bryan Stevenson, professor of Clinical Law at the New York University School of Law and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and Freedom School on January 22. In addition, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's visit to Villanova University. A reading of excerpts of the speech he delivered during that visit, as well as commentary and discussion, will take place on January 21 from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Connelly Center Cinema.
Highlighted by service, fellowship and dialog, this annual celebration is a wonderful way for our campus to begin the Spring Semester and work together toward achieving Dr. King's vision of the beloved community.
This post from the JD Journal reiterates stories appearing elsewhere about the falling credentials of law school applicants at a time when we are getting close to de facto open admissions. An excerpt:
According to Inside Higher Ed, law schools are actually competing for students with low undergraduate grade point averages and LSAT scores. Why? Because the number of students applying to law schools has sharply declined nationwide. According to Bloomberg, enrollment has dropped 18 percent since 2010. It seems that each year, fewer and fewer students apply to law school, likely due to concerns they have about the legal job market.
For example, it used to be that Thomas M. Cooley Law School was known for admitting underqualified students. During last year’s fall semester, however, the entering classes of seven law schools had lower median LSAT scores than Cooley.
Many professors are concerned that, by admitting underqualified students, law schools will be accepting those students who may not be able to graduate from law school or pass the bar exam.
Just five years ago, not one American Bar Association-accredited law school reported a median LSAT score of less than 145 for its entering class. Today, seven law schools report scores of less than 145. Therefore, at least half of the first-year students at these schools scored 144 or lower on the LSAT.
. . . .
You can continue reading here.
Saturday, January 17, 2015
From JD Journal:
A federal judge ruled that Harvard Law did not commit defamation by noting a student’s plagiarism on her transcript. According to the National Law Journal, a federal judge ruled that Harvard Law did not defame a graduate of the law school by reprimanding her for plagiarism. Judge Rya Zobel of the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts granted summary judgment in the suit, which was filed on behalf of Megon Walker in 2012.
Walker sued not only the university, but also law school administrators and two former classmates. Walker was a member of Harvard Law’s class of 2009. She alleged that the school committed a breach of contract by supposedly failing to follow its own disciplinary procedures during an investigation into the plagiarism of a law review article. She added that the school’s notation of a reprimand on her transcript was defamatory, and ended up costing her a job with a prestigious law firm, according to FindLaw.
You can read the rest of the story here. I think you will agree with the judge.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Two related stories from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and Inside Higher Ed, respectively. The Wall Street Journal post is titled Fewer and Fewer Students Are Applying to Law School and notes that law school applications are down, on average, 8.5% from last year. Lowering the Bar is the article from Inside Higher Ed and reports, among other startling stats, that five years ago no American law school had an entering class with a median LSAT of 145 or less; today seven schools do.
"Setting the stage for a potentially historic ruling, the Supreme Court announced Friday it will decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry everywhere in America under the Constitution.
The justices will take up gay-rights cases that ask them to overturn bans in four states and declare for the entire nation that people can marry the partners of their choice, regardless of gender. The cases will be argued in April, and a decision is expected by late June."