Thursday, April 21, 2016
While it's likely an overstatement to say that law firms are abandoning en masse their summer associate programs, this report from the Bloomberg BNA Big Law Business blog found evidence that at least a few firms are heading in that direction.
Last year, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan announced that it would largely do away with its summer program. Will the litigation powerhouse just be the first in a longer line of lemming-like law firms to scrap their young summer ranks?
Edward Colbert, managing partner of Kenyon & Kenyon, said in an interview on Thursday, that some firms he’s discussing a possible merger with “are not having summer programs.” That prompted his recruiting head Elizabeth Knechtges to call the firm’s incoming class of seven summer associates and alert them about the uncertain situation.
“Because we are discussing mergers, there might be a situation where we don’t have (a summer program),” said Colbert. “We wanted to give them as much of a heads up as we could and tell them that we will give you all the help we can… We know other firms that are looking for potential summer clerks and we can revert you to them.”
Colbert said that the calls placed by Knechtges earlier this week included five full-time summer associates and two part-time. She reached out to each of them personally, and then sent a follow-up email, he said.
“It’s not a warning, it’s a notice,” said Colbert, noting that the firm is still looking forward to its June summer program for the time being. He also clarified that Quinn Emanuel is not one of the firms Kenyon is discussing a merger with.
The development, which was first reported by Above the Law, prompted us to ask: Which firms are Colbert talking about that don’t have summer programs anymore? Which students does this affect? And is this really becoming a trend, that law firms are doing away with their summer programs? Or just a convenient talking point to downplay Enechtges’ phone call and deflect attention from Kenyon & Kenyon?
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Some Thoughts on the Future of Legal Education: Why Diversity and Student Wellness Should Matter in a Time of 'Crisis' by Kevin R. Johnson
In light of the changes in the legal marketplace, stabilization of the budgetary picture is currently the first priority of virtually every American law school. Faculty members have been let go. Staffs reduced. Enrollment of students — and the collection of tuition revenues — have critical budgetary consequences.
Linked to the economic “crisis” facing law schools and students was deep concern with each school’s relative placement in the much-watched U.S. News and World Report law school rankings. These rankings, among other things, affect admissions and enrollment, and thus budgetary bottom lines for law schools.
Much less publicized concerns with legal education involve non-financial issues. The lack of racial and other diversity of students attending law school, and ultimately entering the legal profession, and faculty, has long been a problem. In addition, today’s students demand a more humane legal education and are asking for additional academic support, career and mental health counseling, experiential learning opportunities, and more. The costs of the additional services and programs have further added to budgetary pressures on law schools.
This Essay contends that law schools should strive to address the noneconomic as well as the economic problems with modern legal education. In a time of considerable change, this is a most opportune time to consider and implement deep and enduring improvements that benefit students as well as the entire legal profession."
From the Lincoln Journal-Star:
Gov. Pete Ricketts has signed a bill requiring Nebraska's public colleges and universities to provide students with detailed annual reports on their projected student loan debt.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids, will take effect during the 2017-18 academic year.
Colleges will be required to inform students of the total amount of federal education loans they have received, the potential payoff amounts they can expect to pay, estimates of their monthly payments, the number of years they can expect to be in debt and how close they are to the aggregate borrowing limit.
You can read more here.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
The Role of a Writing Specialist in Enhancing Your Legal Writing Program by Jeremy Francis.
Abstract: "This article attempts to define the role of a legal writing specialist in U.S. law schools. After exploring the historical context that gave rise to legal writing specialists, the paper examines how to align the needs of a law college with the specific talents of a writing specialist."
Excerpt: "Martin Katz, Dean of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, commented during his opening address to this conference about “pockets of expertise” that exist in law schools, specifically how legal writing faculty deepen the collective knowledge in the life of a law school. Within legal writing, writing specialists represent another source of deep expertise. My pocket of expertise is in English education and assessment. Other writing specialists have diverse and valuable skills, including experience working in ESL, writing centers, and specialized legal practice. The benefit to a legal writing program grows out of the synthesis between the program’s needs and the specific skills of its writing specialist."
This column from the ABA For Law Students blog argues that the best way for law students to acquire practical legal skills is through the tacit knowledge that comes from working with experienced practitioners as part of a law school internship program. Tacit knowledge refers to the panoply of skills lawyers need to practice law that are difficult to explain, visual or understand through a traditional classroom setting because they have to be experienced firsthand in order to "get it." In terms of substantive skills, the essential ones for practice according to this ABA column are: 1. Analytical skills and substantive knowledge of the law; 2. Legal research and writing; and 3. Communication skills which includes developing the ability to be a good listener.
Check out the full column for yourself here.
From the ABA Journal online:
Harvard University police are investigating the discovery of two hidden recording devices at the law school.
The group Reclaim Harvard Law says it found one device last week in a lounge its members have occupied since February, report the Harvard Crimson, the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe. The device was attached to the bottom of a table with Velcro.
A second device was turned over to administrators on Saturday by a student who found it in a classroom last week, the Harvard Crimson reports in a separate story. Members of Reclaim Harvard Law says the student is not affiliated with the group.
Harvard University police, staffers and students looked for additional devices and found Velcro strips at several sites in the lounge and in classrooms where classes have discussed student activism at the school.
You can read more here.
From the ABA Journal online:
The mean scaled score on the February administration of the Multistate Bar Examination fell to 135, down 1.2 points from the previous year and the lowest average score on a February administration of the test since 1983.
The number of test-takers was up 4 percent from last year, from 22,396 in 2015 to 23,324 this year, according to Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which developed and scores the test.
You can read more here. Does the problem lie with the ability of the students, the reliability of the test, or with our teaching? In any case, I think the burden of solving the problem is on us.
Monday, April 18, 2016
Read the digital version of the special law school supplement here.
Beyond the Metatheoretical: Implicit Bias in Law Review Article Selection by Michael J. Higdon.
On some level, most legal scholars are aware of and begrudgingly accept this phenomenon. In fact, most legal scholars today, when assessing their likelihood of getting a “good” placement, must take into account not only the substance of the piece they are submitting, but the proxies law review editors typically employ to help ascertain “quality” — such proxies include the author’s institution, her alma mater, her publication history, her subject matter, and her overall “fame” within the legal academy. And, to the extent they can, authors actively use those proxies when marketing their articles in hopes of gaining a higher placement.
It is the position of this Article that, although such proxies may be useful in determining the potential virtue of an article under consideration, blind adherence to those attributes alone can result in publications that fail to represent both the breadth of the excellent legal scholarship that currently exists and also the diversity of individuals contributing to that discourse. Thus, recognizing that student-edited journals are here to stay, this Article offers suggestions on how student editors can continue to discharge the weighty jobs they have been given yet, at the same time, minimize the potential for implicit bias in article selection. To make that point, this Article discusses the social science literature on the role implicit bias plays in decision-making with the goal of applying that literature to law review article selection. And, indeed, by looking at the current understanding of the law review submission process, including 1) what studies have revealed about the proxies law review editors rely on in assessing quality and 2) the corresponding marketing techniques law professors use in an attempt to gain higher placements, we see that much bias already exists in our discipline — and this bias has the potential to adversely affect an array of legal scholars: scholars from less prestigious schools, scholars who hold less prestigious titles, scholars who engage in more practical scholarship, scholars who write on less politically popular subjects, and even those scholars who happen to be female or a racial minority. By pointing out these dangers and offering suggestions on ways in which law review editors might attempt to neutralize such bias, this Article hopes journals might improve the degree to which their publications reflect the rich diversity that exists in the legal academy."
Please visit this call for panels and papers for the 2016 Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) Teaching Conference!
Proposals are due by June 15, 2016. We look forward to seeing you in Chicago this fall!
Friday and Saturday, September 30 and October 1, 2016
The John Marshall Law School, Chicago, Illinois
SAVE THE DATE: Central States Law Schools Scholarship Conference
The Central States Law Schools Association 2016 Scholarship Conference will be held on Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24 at the University of North Dakota School of Law in Grand Forks, ND.
CSLSA is an organization of law schools dedicated to providing a forum for conversation and collaboration among law school academics. The CSLSA Annual Conference is an opportunity for legal scholars, especially more junior scholars, to present working papers or finished articles on any law-related topic in a relaxed and supportive setting where junior and senior scholars from various disciplines are available to comment. More mature scholars have an opportunity to test new ideas in a less formal setting than is generally available for their work. Scholars from member and nonmember schools are invited to attend.
Registration will formally open in July. Hotel rooms are already available, and more information about the CSLSA conference can be found on our website at www.cslsa.us.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
NY Times Sorry You Can't Speed Read by Jeffrey M. Zacks & Rebecca Treiman.
"Unfortunately, the scientific consensus suggests that such enterprises should be viewed with suspicion. In a recent article in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, one of us (Professor Treiman) and colleagues reviewed the empirical literature on reading and concluded that it’s extremely unlikely you can greatly improve your reading speed without missing out on a lot of meaning."
"Techniques that aim to guide eye movements so that we can take in more information from each glance seem doomed to fail. There is only a small area in the retina (called the fovea) for which our visual acuity is very high. Our eyes are seriously limited in their precision outside of that. This means that we can take in only a word or so at each glance, as well as a little bit about the words on either side. In fact, since the 1960s, experiments have repeatedly confirmed that when people 'speed read,' they simply do not comprehend the parts of the text that their eyes skip over."
"A deeper problem, however — and the one that also threatens the new speed-reading apps — is that the big bottleneck in reading isn’t perception (seeing the words) but language processing (assembling strings of words into meanings)."
"Reading is about language comprehension, not visual ability. If you want to improve your reading speed, your best bet — as old-fashioned as it sounds — is to read a wide variety of written material and to expand your vocabulary."
Instead of teaching speed reading, those of us in the legal education reform movement are trying to help students attain greater comprehension. Techniques for better reading include treating reading as a process, having a purpose for doing the reading, and setting goals for the reading (what do I want to get out of this text?) In doing the reading, the reader should first skim the text to see what it is about, then read the text carefully. The reader should read and understand every word and how words, sentences, and paragraphs fit together. A reader should evaluate and question the text as she does the reading. Also, the reader should ask how the text relates to what she already knows. Finally, after finishing the text, the reader should reflect on what she learned. Moreover, the reader should evaluate her reading process to see if it can be improved. [From Chapter Two of Think Like A Lawyer: Legal Reasoning For Law Students and Business Professionals (2013)]
A lawyer has no duty to raise claims that are only colorable. The Oregon Supreme Court explains:
We also disagree that lawyers can be held to have breached a duty of care in a malpractice action by failing to raise claims that are merely colorable, but not necessarily viable. This court has never suggested that a lawyer’s duty to a client requires taking “colorable,” but ultimately incorrect, legal positions. Rather, as the court has stated, a client who alleges malpractice in litigation must prove the existence of “a valid cause of action or defense, which, had it not been for the attorney’s alleged negligence, would have brought about a judgment favorable to the client in the original action.”
You can access the case, Rowlett v. Fagan, here.
Saturday, April 16, 2016
The Independent: University Students are Struggling to Read Entire Books by Rachael Pells.
“University academics caused a furore this week by claiming many students found the thought of reading books all the way to the end ‘daunting’, due to shorter attention spans and an inability to focus on complex philosophies.”
"'I recently had a student suggest an alternative book for a module I am teaching which they found easier to engage with. It was a good book, but it was not really academic enough and I am still unsure if that matters or whether I should be recommending more readable books. There is currently a disjuncture between the types of reading we want students to engage with and the types students feel able or willing to do.'"
"Jenny Pickerill, a professor in environmental geography at the University of Sheffield, told Times Higher Education magazine: 'Students struggle with set texts, saying the language or concepts are too hard.'"
"The majority of students who spoke to The Independent admitted that they would rarely finish a course book within deadlines required."
"Chantelle Francis, Academic and Inclusions Officer for the Sheffield University English Society, said: 'I would argue that it is the time constraints that students struggle with as opposed to the actual material in most cases.'"
"Lizzy Kelly, a history student at Sheffield added: 'Students might be more inclined to read what academics want them to if our curricula weren’t overwhelmingly white, male and indicative of a society and structures we fundamentally disagree with because they don't work for us.'"
If everyone hated meetings as much as I do, meetings would be very short and very infrequent. But, alas, meetings continue to go on and on. I fear that some people like meetings and prolong them and other people prolong meetings because they are hesitant to make decisions and implement them.
Be all that as it may, At VITAE, Nicole Matos offers advice on how to keep meetings moving along. Here are the main points:
Limit the agenda. The ideal meeting, in my mind, has a single item on the lineup. That may not always be practical, but beware the smorgasbord of a thousand agenda items — that sort of meeting goes flabby the fastest.
Put a specific proposal on the table. If you are running a meeting and want to avoid that too-often-interminable brainstorming phase, don’t be afraid to lead with — or at least introduce early — a possible motion or decision.
Once decisions are made, put them in writing. Most academic meetings have a minute-taker, but to my mind, minutes distributed hours or days after the meeting are too late to mark and (hopefully) celebrate the stages of decision-making.
Don’t let people circle back without a very good reason. The write-it-down technique is not intended to discourage people from revising, adjusting, and fine-tuning ideas — but rather, to confine revising, adjusting, and fine-tuning to a focused period of the process.
Don’t be afraid to call on people. A good meeting should not be dominated by the quickest, loudest, or most aggressive voices. In most meetings, you have to actively manage discussion — just like you do in the classroom — to ensure a give-and-take conversation.
Don’t be afraid to assign work. Task forces will inevitably involve, well, tasks. And though it is the rare academic who welcomes an addition to their workload, the most effective meetings are often those in which everyone becomes responsible for doing a “next thing.”
Give plenty of praise. If you are going to be a taskmaster — and in the end, you need an element of that to lead a meeting effectively — please don’t be a thankless one. A good meeting is a group effort, so be sincerely grateful and gracious.
You can read more here.
I really liked this paragraph from the article Jim mentioned directly below:
"Our belief is that practical training enables students to develop mature judgment and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances that will emerge in the decades ahead. We need to develop lawyers capable of navigating a changing profession, an evolving economy and new cultural norms. To do that, the modern law student must experience the intersections of law, business and society, sensing the pressures for adaptation and learning ways to solve complex and evolving modern problems."
Elon has a wonderful experiential program, which will prepare law students for our contemporary world.
We live in a golden age of design.
Since Apple’s iPod brilliantly married form and function more than a decade ago, design thinking increasingly has influenced everything from home products and technology start-ups to social movements. As The New York Times put it last year, “Design has fundamentally changed the way we experience the world, from the way we interact with objects to our expectations about how organizations are structured.”
But there’s at least one enterprise in which the overall design is actually more outdated than Henry Ford’s Model T: legal education. Since Harvard Law dean Christopher Columbus Langdell first introduced the Socratic method into the classroom in the late 1800s, the fundamentals of the school learning experience have remained static.
In the typical law school design, you load up on the required basics in your first year — courses like torts, contracts, property and civil procedure, with some additional — and too often minimal instruction on writing, research and communication. There’s little time for anything but the study of legal theory.
. . . .
There’s a better way to do this, and it starts with a redesigned curriculum grounded in the realities of being a modern lawyer. In addition to foundational courses, first-year law students need to experience how legal theory is applied in practice. Lab courses taught by practicing attorneys can achieve this, providing students with early introductions to using the knowledge gained in classrooms so they can begin to develop highly valued lawyering skills.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Friday, April 15, 2016
From the ABA Journal online. Also listing each school’s U.S. News Ranking:
The top 10 law schools for full-time JD applications for fall 2015 are:
1) Georgetown University, with 7,748 applications, ranked No. 14 overall
2) George Washington University, with 6,160 applications, ranked No. 25 (in a tie) overall
3) Columbia University with 5,716 applications, ranked No. 4 (in a tie) overall
4) New York University, with 5,714 applications, ranked No. 6 overall
5) University of California at Los Angeles, with 5,254 applications, ranked No. 17 overall
6) Harvard University, with 5,206 applications, ranked No. 2 (in a tie) overall
7) University of California at Berkeley, with 5,136 applications, ranked No. 8 (in a tie) overall
8) University of Pennsylvania, with 5,069 applications, ranked No. 7 overall
9) Duke University, with 4,819 applications, ranked No. 11 overall
10) Washington University in St. Louis with 4,613 applications, ranked No. 18 overall
You can read more here.