Sunday, September 18, 2016

Looking Beyond the Trends: Whose Our Curriculum Really For? by Pam Armstrong

From the Best Practices Blog: Looking Beyond the Trends: Whose Our Curriculum Really For? by Pam Armstrong.


"But I did, however, recently listen at a ceremony where the head of a non-law institute spoke eloquently about the goal of that educational institution as doing justice and having their faculty involved in field-work toward helping others establish workable justice systems.  Non-lawyers.

Whenever students struggle with understanding a statute or regulation and where I sense a disconnect, I encourage asking who benefits from a policy or something being advocated.  Then, recognizing how easy it is to go along with an idea that is being advocated when it is self-benefitting, I encourage students to ask who is left out and, if appropriate, why we continue to allow others’ priorities to be that determinative."

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 18, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Gratifying Should a Legal Career Be?

Career consultant David Behrend has developed a gratification index for assessing how gratifying lawyers find their jobs. I suppose it applies to legal academics as well:

When I ask a client prior to a career consultation session, in the office or via telephone, about their satisfaction or, more likely, dissatisfaction, what I hear is illuminating, heartfelt and very honest. I have developed a “Behrend Gratification Index,” which roughly measures a lawyer’s enjoyment of what he/she does day in and day out in the office or courtroom. Under the Behrend Gratification Index, I believe the everyday work — forgetting pay, supervision, etc. — should be about 75 percent gratifying. A satisfaction level of 66 2/3 percent reminds me of my math grades in school — barely passing. Fifty percent is totally unacceptable. A few lawyers do achieve approximately 90 percent, be it an equity partner with Big Law, or in some cases, a solo practitioner who has found his/her “calling” and made a nice living from it over the years.

If you are not above 66 2/3 percent, he encourages a career change.

You can read more here at At Issue, the newsletter of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division.


September 18, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal Writing Out of the Box‏

From Kirsten Davis:

Dear Friends,

I hope by now many of you have received in the mail the Stetson Institute for the Advancement of Legal Communication’s newest project, Legal Writing Out of the Box: Ideas Inside.   This is a resource-sharing project and a labor of love for us, and we hope you will join this project by writing a teaching idea card for The Box in the future.  Email us at to get involved.  We will be adding new cards every year.

 If you have any feedback for us on The Box, please let me know.  In addition, if you would like to have The Box sent to a colleague, email

 To learn more about this project, see

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 18, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A law student perspective on the case law methodology

A former journalist turned 1L student at U. Tulsa School of Law offers his perspective on the traditional case law classroom methodology used since Langdell's day and - guess what? - like generations of students before him, he finds it an unnecessarily frustrating experience. The student, Robert McClendon, is also an occasional columnist for where this piece appears.

Dear Law Professors: Please Stop Hiding the Ball


I’m about a month into my first semester, and the average week has me spending about 60 hours in class or studying, and I would do more, but the subsequent extra-credit course in Divorce and Family Law would only add to my workload.


To be fair, I may be doing more than is strictly necessary to produce competitive results. Some of my fellow students at the University of Tulsa College of Law insist that book briefing and commercial outlines can carry the day come finals. I’m more inclined to believe the conventional wisdom: Law school is just hard. If you want to succeed, you have to put in the work.


So, I diligently brief all my cases. I outline as I go. There are flashcards.


I suspect that at least some of this is needless effort, though, the result of law school’s decision to teach via the case law method. This mystical system, we are told, is a highly effective way of teaching students to “think like a lawyer.”


Yet I’m left wondering, why not simply explain the rule and give us a bunch of novel fact patterns to show us the nuances and make sure we understand it?


. . . .

Continue reading here.


September 18, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Great iPad Apps for Trial

In the August 2016 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal, trial lawyer Jennifer Auer Jordan offers advice on a number of Apps to use before and during the trial. Most of the advice is for Apple users.

With technology developing so quickly, article like this one are very helpful for keeping current.

You can access the article by clicking here.


September 17, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Five Stages of Every Legal Career

According to LawCrossing, they are:

  1. Orientation: You figure out the rules of the game.
  2.   Challenge: You prove your competence.
  3.   Establishment: You climb the ladder.
  4.  Cruising: You operate on a comfortable plateau.  5. Disengagement: You begin to let go.

For more elaboration and brief advice on handling each stage, please click here. I think these stages apply to legal educators as well.


September 16, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ruth Anne Robbins: Named a Top Woman in Law

Each year, the New Jersey Law Journal recognizes the outstanding work being done by female attorneys across New Jersey who have had notable achievements in recent years, or who have otherwise made an extraordinary impact on the legal profession. These outstanding attorneys are all making strides to push the profession forward for women.

Professor Ruth Anne Robbins at Rutgers-Camden is one of 25 women named a 2016 Top Woman in Law. She is the only law professor receiving this honor.

Those of us in legal education have long recognized Ruth Anne’s contributions to our field. It is wonderful to see her gaining recognition in the larger legal world.


September 16, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Duquesne Conference: Drafting Statutes and Rules

On December 3, Duquesne University School of Law will host its annual Colonial Frontier Legal Writing Conference, this year considering “Drafting Statutes and Rules: Pedagogy, Practice, and Politics”:

Practicing attorneys frequently engage in statutory, regulation, and rule drafting whether it be drafting corporate governance documents, crafting legislative initiatives for non-profit clients, or engaging with highly regulated industries. Despite increasing need for such skills in law practice, the drafting of statutes, ordinances, regulations, and rules (for public laws or governance of non-governmental entities) remains one of the least common law school subjects. Commonly, instruction focuses on the repercussions of poorly written statutes or rules, on the courts’ efforts at application and interpretation of statutory language, and on scholarly criticism of statutes. Instead, law schools should teach students and practitioners how to better draft statutes and similar documents to avoid confusion, ambiguities, disagreements, and litigation.

Duquesne University School of Law's 2016 legal writing conference offers attendees an opportunity to hear from academicians who teach how to write statutory materials, practitioners who craft statutes and similar rules, and other scholars who study all forms of legislation. Lawyers representing corporate and non-profit clients, as well as those practicing in highly regulated areas of law, will find this program helpful in developing both skills in the art of statutory and rule drafting, and in learning about resources available to clients in need of such drafting.

The conference offers many valuable presentations and well-known authorities. You can learn more about the conference here.)


September 16, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hiring Student Law Clerks and Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

From the Thompson Hine law firm blog:

It’s common for law students to clerk for a couple different firms during their law-school years. When a law clerk or a law school graduate you hire has clerked for a firm representing a party adverse to your client, what happens? Is the student or newly-minted lawyer disqualified from working on your matter? Is your whole firm disqualified? Can you screen the clerk/former clerk and solve the problem? Two recent ethics opinions out of Texas and Ohio clarify the rules.

It’s common for law students to clerk for a couple different firms during their law-school years. When a law clerk or a law school graduate you hire has clerked for a firm representing a party adverse to your client, what happens? Is the student or newly-minted lawyer disqualified from working on your matter? Is your whole firm disqualified? Can you screen the clerk/former clerk and solve the problem? Two recent ethics opinions out of Texas and Ohio clarify the rules.

The short answer: The law firm is not disqualified, but must screen the clerk/former clerk from any personal participation in a matter in which he or she had substantial responsibility.

You can read more here.


September 15, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Program Alert: Dan Markel Murder

ABC News 20/20 Friday, Sept. 16 at 10 p.m. EDT

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 15, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

More on the classroom laptop debate

The Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts argues that the problem is not laptops in the classroom but professors who fail to train students in how to use them effectively.  From the Chronicle of Higher Ed.:

No, Banning Laptops Is Not the Answer

And it’s just as pointless to condemn any ban on electronic devices in the classroom


Too many of our students are distracted by devices. We all know this. In recent months the profession has been vigorously debating whether to solve that problem by banning any and all electronic devices from the classroom. Laptops have been center stage in that debate.


Most faculty members allow students to use cell phones, clickers, and other hand-held devices only for very limited purposes (such as polling) — if at all. Laptops, by contrast, have become so commonplace that many faculty members have begun to question whether their omnipresence interferes with student learning.


More academics than I care to count, for example, have posted links on Twitter to studies that support the value of taking notes on paper. These advocates argue that learning improves when we force students to slow down and write out their notes. They have to think more carefully about what to write, since they simply don’t have the ability to write down everything they see and hear, compared with how fast they can type.


That’s a valid objection. If I’m taking notes on my laptop and see a wall of text on a slide (which means it’s a terrible slide, but we’ll leave that argument for another day), I can type most of the information quickly without much thought. But, faced with that same wall of text, if I only have a notebook and pen in hand, I know from the start that I can’t copy all the information from the slide. I have to think about what matters: What is the main idea here? What are the key words? What can I take away from this slide in 30 seconds? To take effective notes on paper, I have to be actively engaged with the material, and that exercise deepens my learning.


. . . . 


In fact, a good case can be made that students can learn — or, more precisely, can be taught — to take notes effectively on their laptops, iPads, or other such devices. As Jeff McClurken has rightly argued, for most students the "problem isn’t which device (pencil, laptop, phone, quill) they use to take those notes, but how to take them and how to use them to learn." We as faculty could use the presence of laptops in the classroom as an opportunity to help students better understand how to learn, how to take notes (whether by hand or on a device), and how to learn from the process of taking notes.


For academics arguing in favor of electronic note-taking, the implication is, as Kevin Gannon provocatively put it in a May blog post: "Let’s Ban the Classroom Technology Ban."


. . . . 

Continue reading here.


September 14, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Misbehaving Judge Resigns


Judges Acting Badly Department. From the Lehigh Valley (PA)

The Hellertown area's former district judge was charged Friday with sleeping in his robes on his office floor, using excessive profanity, bullying his staff when they complained and running a "fast food" court by settling cases at his counter rather than from the bench.

The scathing 96-page complaint also says former District Judge David Tidd handled cases as a bankruptcy attorney after presiding over cases involving the same litigants in his district court.

Tidd resigned effective July 25, less than seven months into his second six-year term. He had resigned in March but reversedhis decision, only to resign again in July.

The complaint filed Friday by the Judicial Conduct Board says Tidd yelled at his staff for scheduling hearings on Election Day when he wanted to campaign. Frequent examples are cited of him losing his temper, insulting his staff and litigants, and using profanity and the F-word when speaking to or in the presence of staff members.

Much more here. These antics were going on for years. Why did it take so long to get him off the bench?


September 14, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Indiana Tech Law School Clinical Professor Opening

INDIANA TECH LAW SCHOOL, which is provisionally ABA accredited, invites applications for one full-time, tenure-track, clinical assistant professor to design, manage, and teach a live-client clinic in the Law School’s innovative and growing clinical program. The Law School’s clinics currently include the United States Supreme Court Amicus Project, the Federal Judicial Intern Practicum, the Appellate Litigation Clinic, and the Mediation Clinic.

In the fall 2017 semester, the Law School will implement a live-client clinic in an area consistent with the successful candidate’s expertise and the community’s needs. A non-exhaustive list of possible clinic focus areas include a veterans-based clinic, a medical-legal partnership, and an immigrants’ rights clinic. The Law School is particularly interested in integrating clinical opportunities throughout its three-year curriculum and this position may evolve into a clinical director position or involve teaching one or more doctrinal or legal writing courses.

Successful applicants will be collaborative and have an excellent academic record, substantial clinical teaching and law practice experience, and a demonstrated commitment to excellence in clinical teaching, scholarship, and service. The position is full-time (twelve months) and will be an essential part of the Law School’s fully-integrated program of experiential legal education, in which all clinical, legal writing, and doctrinal faculty are tenure-track with the same rights, privileges, responsibilities, salary scale, and benefits. Additionally, the successful candidate will be eligible to receive professional development funds to enable participation at conferences and promote meaningful scholarship.

This is a unique opportunity to be on the ground floor of an innovative law school and develop a cutting-edge and client-centered clinical program. Candidates should send a curriculum vitae, cover letter, and the candidate’s clinical vision to Associate Dean for Faculty Charles E. MacLean ( The Law School encourages applications from candidates who will contribute to the diversity of the Law School’s faculty."

I also have been informed that Indiana Tech has two openings for experiential legal writing professors.


September 14, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Stanford Student’s Robot Lawyer Fights Parking Tickets

From JD Journal:

DoNotPay’s developer Joshua Browder told ABC News that it has helped appeal over 175,000 tickets worth roughly $5 million. So far, DoNotPay has been set up in New York and London, and Browder named Seattle as it’s next destination.

“Whenever I try to expand to a new area I always do it based on demand,” Browder said. “Lots of people are writing (and) saying that Seattle should be the next place.”

ABC News stated that the Seattle option went live on Friday evening.

Drivers who get tickets visit the DoNotPay website or use its app and consult with an artificial intelligence lawyer by answering a series of questions about their parking ticket. The website or app then drafts a letter to the court on the driver’s behalf.

DoNotPay is a free service that was launched in 2015. Browder said that although investors are interested in his company, he wanted to keep the service free. Browder said that his intention was to help those who were oppressed.

You can read more here.


September 13, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 12, 2016

'No Shots, No School, No Kidding': The Legal Profession Needs a Vaccine to Ensure Professionalism

'No Shots, No School, No Kidding': The Legal Profession Needs a Vaccine to Ensure Professionalism by Debra Moss Curtis.


When we consider what constitutes a public health crisis in the United States, we are usually restricting ourselves to talking about the medical field. However, my article, “No Shots, No School, No Kidding: The Legal Profession needs a Vaccine to Ensure Professionalism” argues that that the legal profession is experiencing a public health crisis of its own, and that radical steps must be taken to combat the growing cancer on the profession.

In many states across the country, the month of August is filled with a severe no-nonsense message to parents of children enrolled or hoping to enroll in public school: “no shots, no school, no kidding.” The public health crisis that led to the requirement of mandatory vaccinations for school age children was so severe as to require this blanket mandate. Much like the spread of measles or mumps, the legal profession is experiencing its own public health crisis — a disease running through it that threatens to destroy it. That disease — a rampant lack of professionalism by attorneys, is tainting our justice system and harming the public in a widespread manner.

In the early days of disease epidemics, the strategy for containment was quarantine and attempting to cure, which ultimately led to the only true fix, vaccinations. Similarly, the legal system has responded to its own public health crisis by trying to cut off attorneys from the general population and treat them, rather than working properly to prevent problems. This article argues that the legal profession has focused its efforts too much on trying to “cure” the professionalism problem through discipline, sanctions, and education of lawyers that have already shown signs of the disease instead of extensively using preventative education for newly forming lawyers to help prevent it.

Part II of this work discusses the professionalism crisis. Part III discusses ways that the legal academy can and should be tackling this disease, with proposals to more effectively prevent it through a “vaccination” given while new lawyers are at their most formative stages. Part IV discusses obstacles to these plans, and Part V draws some conclusions from this analysis.

(Scott Fruehwald)


September 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pssst, . . . wanna serve on the executive committee of the AALS Section on Teaching Methods?

The Teaching Methods Section of AALS is seeking a few motivated individuals to do the Lord's work on behalf of the section. More specifically, the Section is seeking nominations for Treasurer (who will eventually ascend to Chair of the Section) and a couple more hardy souls to serve on the Section's Executive Committee. See the announcement below for additional details including the nominating deadline which is November 1. Please send the names (along with a short nomination statement) to moi at  And of course please feel free to nominate yourself. Here are those promised additional details. 

The Nominating Committee of the Teaching Method Section of the AALS is now seeking nominations for the following positions:




Two members of the Executive Committee


The mission of the Teaching Methods Section is:


"To promote the communication of ideas, interests and activities among members of the section and to make recommendations on matters concerning techniques, strategies and methods of teaching, evaluating assessment of strategies, and formulating learning outcomes for law students" The Section seeks to present programming that shares ideas about innovations in the classroom, as well as promote connections between those whoseek to make legal education more vibrant and relevant for our students.


Under our section by-laws, officers serve for a four year term. The Chair-elect succeeds to the office of chair, the secretary to Chair-elect, and Treasurer to Secretary. Individuals nominated for Treasurer should consider whether they are willing to serve the section through this rotation. Officers and members of the Executive Committee are expected to participate actively in Section work, which involves planning our yearly program presented at the annual AALS meeting in January. The Secretary is responsible for producing the annual Section newsletter.


You may nominate yourself or another person, and those who have served on the Board may be re-nominated for a current open position. Each nomination should include a short statement (no more than 250 words) explaining the nominee’s interest and relevant background. The statement should be submitted to the Teaching Methods Nomination Committee, chaired by James Levy, (, and are due by November 1, 2016. The nominating committee will make recommendations to be approved by the Executive Board no later than December 10, 2016, and all nominees will be informed of the decision prior to the AALS Annual Conference in January.


September 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA Committee Recommends Tougher Bar Pass Standard

From the ABA Journal:

"Standard 316 holds that accredited law schools are not in compliance if within five years fewer than 75 percent of first-time test-takers do not pass bar exams or the schools are not within 15 points of state bar passage rates. But the ABA Accreditation Standards Review Committee approved a proposal Saturday to change the requirement so that schools must show that 75 percent of their graduating classes pass a bar exam within two years.

The proposal, which the committee approved unanimously, was forwarded to the governing council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which will consider it in October.

Committee member Ward Farnsworth, dean of the University of Texas School of Law, suggested that the 75 percent requirement was too low."

"At an August hearing about the proposal, committee members heard the public’s comments (PDF), with concerns mostly centered on whether it would harm law schools that serve disadvantaged populations or are in states with low bar passage rates."

"The committee also submitted a proposed interpretation of Standard 501-3, dealing with student attrition. The proposal states that if a specific class has an attrition rate of more than 20 percent, the school would be required to demonstrate that its admission policies are consistent with the standard requirements.

'I was shocked when I looked at attrition rates in excess of 20 percent,' said Peter A. Joy, professor and director of the criminal justice clinic at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. 'It’s hard to imagine a school has a sound admissions policy when students are doing that.'”

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do We Need the Apostrophe?

Here’s a possible shift in punctuation. On an iPhone, including the apostrophe in a contraction requires more keystrokes. Thus we sometimes see “cant” instead of “can’t” or “couldnt” instead of “couldn’t.”

Does the elimination of the apostrophe augur a trend? As a matter of function, do we really need that apostrophe? Don’t we understand the word without it? In my first example, “cant” is a word, but we are not likely to confuse it with the contraction of “can not.”


September 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The 5 Edits I Make Most Frequently by Mark Herrmann

Some good advice on writing:

The 5 Edits I Make Most Frequently by Mark Herrmann, Above the Law.

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Understanding the Connection between Learning Outcomes and Assessments in a Doctrinal Course

Learning outcomes are an important topic in legal education, especially considering the recent changes to the ABA standards.  This article does a good job of explaining learning outcomes.  I especially like this sentence: "A learning outcome encompasses the actions a student should be able to perform to demonstrate he has learned the information."

Getting Up to Speed: Understanding the Connection between Learning Outcomes and Assessments in a Doctrinal Course by Joni Larsen.


Many professors are bristling over the recent changes to the American Bar Association (ABA) Standards and Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Criteria, requiring law schools to have learning outcomes and assessments. While such criteria have existed outside the law school environment for many years, the concepts are new to most law professors. This article explains what a learning outcome is and how to create one. It then explores the flip side to outcomes, assessments. It provides a variety of ways for creating and incorporating assessments into a doctrinal course. More than just providing a basic introduction to outcomes and assessment, the paper explains how the shift to learning outcomes and assessments is good for legal education. With the shift, content knowledge and skill development based on that knowledge becomes the constant and the time it takes to cover material becomes the variable. Both professors and students can be assured learning, and the right learning, is happening. Moreover, through the professor’s focus on a demonstration of knowledge, students will leave law school with a vast skill set designed to allow them to do something with the knowledge they have acquired.
Excerpt: "This perspective can be demonstrated by analogy to other skills-based activities. For those who want to play the piano, they must be able to read music and understand where those notes are on the piano. But that is not enough. Nor is listening to their instructor play the piano enough. They must sit down at the keyboard and actually, themselves, hit the proper keys in the right order based on the music they are reading. An aspiring football player must do more than watch film clips, memorize plays, and track the movements of those who are more skilled at the game than he is. He must get out on the field and see what it is like to actually run a play with his teammates and against an opponent. Just so, a law student must know not only the rules of civil procedure but understand if and how they can be used to solve a problem a client brings to him."


September 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)