Monday, February 6, 2017
"A law school having a cumulative non-transfer attrition rate above 20 percent for a class creates a rebuttable presumption that the law school is not in compliance with the Standard."
Update Standard 501 changes:
(a) A law school shall maintain adopt, publish, and adhere to sound admission policies and practices consistent with the Standards, its mission, and the objectives of its program of legal education.
(b) A law school shall not admit an only applicants who does not appear capable of satisfactorily
completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.
Interpretation 501-1 new part: “Compliance with Standard 316 is not alone sufficient to comply with the Standard.”
On the surface these changes seem subtle, but I think they give the Council considerably more power to enforce admission standards. In particular, they make clear that compliance with 316 is not sufficient to comply with 501. Stay tuned.
Further update from the ABA Journal: "Kyle McEntee, executive director and co-founder of the reform group Law School Transparency, thought that House of Delegates vote to approve revisions to Standard 501 was promising.
'The revisions to Standard 501 are an enormous win that will make it more difficult for law schools to exploit students for tuition,' he said. 'While the Standard 316 battle was lost this time, the war is not over. The law schools that do more harm than good will be held accountable for terrible bar passage rates.'"
Professor Neil Hamilton has just posted two articles on professional identity formation on SSRN.
Off-the-Shelf Formative Assessments to Help Each Student Develop Toward a Professional Formation/Ethical Professional Identity Learning Outcome of an Internalized Commitment to the Student's Own Professional Development.
Part II analyzes the professional-formation learning outcomes that law schools have adopted as of October 15, 2016. Part III gives a brief summary of what we know about the most effective curriculum to foster student development toward professional-formation learning outcomes. Part IV focuses on an analysis of off-the-shelf formative assessments that provide meaningful feedback on a learning outcome that each student should demonstrate understanding and integration of responsibility for continually self-evaluating the student’s own professional development toward excellence."
The focus of this article is to analyze how an e-portfolio curricular strategy helps each law student develop toward: (1) the faculty’s formation-of-an-ethical-professional-identity learning outcomes; (2) each law student’s goal of meaningful employment after graduation; and (3) each law school’s goal that a high percentage of its graduates secure good employment outcomes that in turn influence stronger applications to the law school.
Part I of the article outlines the results of a December, 2016 survey of learning outcomes posted on law school websites. Part II outlines the next steps in the development of a curriculum that will help each law student achieve the faculty’s learning outcomes. Part III explains how the faculty and staff can help each student understand and use the faculty’s learning outcomes and the curriculum as the bridge to grow toward later stages of the competencies that legal employers want in order to achieve the student’s goal of meaningful employment post-graduation. Part IV analyzes whether e-portfolios are a useful curricular strategy to foster each student’s growth toward a learning outcome that each student should demonstrate understanding and integration of responsibility for pro-active professional development toward excellence at the competencies needed to serve clients and the legal system. Part V analyzes the lessons learned from the efforts to implement a curriculum using e-portfolios."
This is a new article by Professors Martha Kanter and Grace Dodier (Northwestern). It's available at 17 W. Mich. U. Cooley J. Prac. & Clin. L. 265 (2016). From the introduction:
American law schools are swept up in a trend designed to sell law school applicants on the notion that three years of law school training will deliver them as “practice-ready” graduates ready for hire by eager legal employers. The practice-ready rhetoric in vogue at American law schools suggests that a law school graduate is the equivalent of a ready-made meal that travels from freezer to oven to table - ready in a matter of minutes. Law schools have responded to the growing problem of limited job opportunities that unemployed law graduates are facing. In response, many law schools are promoting curricula that promise to produce practice-ready graduates to a legal profession that has suffered setbacks in the economic recession. This effort, consistent with the American Bar Association's decision to require law students to complete six credits of experiential course work, is laudable, but it has its shortcomings. A law school's curriculum should impart practical skills to young lawyers. However, the practice-ready movement's broad language, implicit promises, and attendant curricular changes were inspired by marketplace realities created by years of economic forces beyond the control of law schools. The practice- ready movement has encouraged law schools to rapidly fashion skills programs that address the schools' present practical needs at the risk of failing to ensure that young lawyers know it will take many years of work before they are capable of practicing law as independent professionals. It has conflated the primary objective of most law schools-to prepare their students to embark on lifelong careers in the law-with the more practical and immediate goal of attracting enough qualified students to fill incoming classes. This approach is shortsighted.
The practice-ready movement sends a hopeful message to law school applicants that they will find jobs in the legal profession upon graduation by achieving legal competence through school-based experience. Indeed, some law schools' practice-ready marketing efforts suggest that graduates will have a full complement of legal skills upon graduation. No amount of experiential learning during law school can lead to legal skills mastery or guarantee a law school graduate's employment. As most lawyers and those who teach at law schools know, a law school cannot graduate a master lawyer in three years any more than a medical school can graduate a master surgeon in three years. In fact, the practice-ready movement's boastful claims may undermine students' understanding that learning to practice law is a lifelong endeavor. The most effective lawyers are those who have developed a professional identity over time. Furthermore, no single definition of a “practice-ready” graduate exists because the definition will vary from school to school, community to community, and state to state. And finally, the movement runs the risk of permitting the Bar and law firms to shirk their obligation to mentor novice lawyers.Yet, despite the movement's pitfalls, it presents legal educators with an opportunity to discuss what law schools can realistically do to prepare students for practice. This article advocates that, at a minimum, law schools retire the practice-ready tag line and instead consider how to better educate students for their lifelong roles as members of a learned profession. As it is, the literature and an increasing number of law school initiatives suggest that students who take experiential courses can be made practice-ready or even masters of various practice skills by the time they graduate. The number of critics sounding a cautionary note about the practice-ready movement is in the minority. Before they develop, advertise, and implement curricula that offer to make students practice-ready, law schools should determine whether they can deliver on their promises.Although a law school education cannot transform a college graduate into a master lawyer, law schools can achieve the critical goal of producing competent law graduates who are willing to do what is necessary to develop their professional skills and identities. Law schools can provide their students with a balanced education in core doctrinal and skills courses that will help them to begin their life's work of delivering competent and ethical legal services to clients. Law school is fundamentally an introduction to the practice of law, a learned and worthy profession in which the attorney places the client before self, and the pursuit of justice above all else. A legal education should “prepar[e] men and women not for a trade but for a profession-the profession of law.”
In Part A of this article, we define what we mean by the practice-ready movement and discuss the forces that have propelled the practice-ready curriculum to the forefront of legal education. In Part B we examine some of the pitfalls of the current emphasis on practice-ready curricula. Finally in Part C, we argue that a legal education that prepares a young lawyer for practice should integrate experiential learning with professional formation.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
In a thoughtful posting at Best Practices for Legal Education, Ruth Anne Robbins makes the case for teaching narrative across the curriculum, particularly in the first year LW course. As she notes, when it comes to advocacy, facts don’t persuade; stories persuade. Here is an edited excerpt:
Assuming you are on board that our students should graduate knowing what facts are and knowing that representing clients means being able to appreciate and tell their clients’ stories, the last question to answer is the curricular locale for teaching these things. Historically, the clinic and externship programs at law schools have been celebrated for focusing students on facts and narrative in a capstone experience. . . . .
But we do students a stronger service if they enter the capstone experiences with a strong foundation. The casebook authors can include more story so that teaching professors can reinforce the ideas of facts and narrative. The skills professors of the trial advocacy and practicum courses include some training, but the first and heavy lift most appropriately belongs in the required first-year legal research, analysis & communication course series. Gone are the days when we can teach those courses by indulging in the pedagogy of a legal document’s traditional text-based sections or on a singular paradigm for organizing legal reasoning. In 2017 we must focus on making students client-ready.
You can read more here.
It’s Legalboard. According to its vendor:
With the press of a single key, you can instantly switch into legal mode, with keys that allow you to:
- Add a section, paragraph, or copyright symbol
- Turn underline, italics, or bold functions on and off
- Turn track changes on and off
- Add a footnote or comment, then toggle back to the main text
- Find a term in your document, then toggle back to the main text
- Change line spacing
- Insert common citations and legal words like “court”, “plaintiff”, and “id.”You can read more here.
- The price: $65 (!)
Saturday, February 4, 2017
If you are invited to give a speech or join in a seminar, what should you expect in the way of a financial fee? The answer (surprise) is it depends.
If you are an academic celebrity, you can expect a spectacularly large fee. Otherwise, the fee may be small or nonexistent. At Vitae, Tanya Golash-Boza spells out the details and give examples.
You can access the article here.
Friday, February 3, 2017
A Message to the ABA House of Delegates: Approve ABA Standard 316 on Bar Passage by David Frakt on the Faculty Lounge.
"The ABA House of Delegates vote on the proposed new bar passage standard for law schools, ABA Standard 316, at the ABA mid-year meeting this week in Miami. This is an enormously important vote with significant repercussions for legal education and the legal profession. I strongly support the proposed standard and urge those with a vote to approve it."
"Since 2010, law school applications have dropped about 40%. In an effort to fill classes, the overwhelming majority of law schools, even our most selective institutions, have lowered their admissions standards."
"ABA Standard for Admissions 501  mandates that a law school shall not admit applicants who do not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its educational program and being admitted to the bar.'"
"Sadly, it is no longer the case that almost all law schools are complying in good faith with Standard 501. Dozens of law schools are now admitting substantial numbers of students at very high or extremely high risk of failure. As a direct result of significant declines in admission standards, law school attrition rates are up, and law school bar passage rates are way down. At a few of the least selective law schools, fewer than one in three students who start law school can expect to graduate and pass the bar the on the first try, and many will never pass, leaving them saddled with huge debt and little prospect of earning enough to recoup their investment. That is unacceptable in a profession that purports to hold itself to high ethical standards, and it fuels the increasingly widespread perception that law school is a scam."
"The ABA Standards on Admission  and Bar Passage  are supposed to work in concert. The Admission standard is a non-exploitation standard. It is designed to ensure that students without a reasonable chance of success are not taken advantage of by schools willing to take their tuition. The Bar Passage standard is designed to ensure that students get what they are promised and what they are paying for – a legal education that adequately prepares them for the practice of law and gives them the knowledge and skills required to earn admission to the bar."
"If a law school admits only applicants who are capable of earning a J.D. and passing the bar , and the law school is providing those students a sound legal education, designed, at least in part, to prepare students to pass the bar, then a school should have a bar pass rate where a substantial majority of students pass the bar."
"And that is why there is significant opposition to the new standard. Nearly half the law school Deans in the country recently signed a letter asking the ABA to hold off on the new standard. Many of these Deans have good reason to be worried. The Deans know that the weakest class ever admitted to most law schools was the class of 2014, the class about to graduate and take the bar this summer. And at many schools, the classes of 2015 and 2016 were just as weak or weaker. Based on the results on the bar exams in 2015 and 2016, and the strength of the classes in the pipeline, between 20 to 30 law schools will likely have a first-time bar pass rate in 2017 of below 60%, placing them in jeopardy of not making 75% within two years."
"The fact that a number of law schools are likely to be unable to meet the standard  is not a reason to defer or withdraw the standard. The standard needs to be made tougher immediately because the current standard has proven completely ineffective as a means of regulating either admissions or the quality of legal education. In fact, while bar passage rates have dropped sharply over the past three years, with many law schools posting first-time pass rates well below 50%, not a single ABA-Accredited law school has been found to be out of compliance with the current Standard 316 during that time."
***"The exploitation of college graduates who dream of becoming lawyers, but have no demonstrated aptitude for the study of law, needs to stop. Law school is not for everyone. Law schools should admit only students with reasonable capacity for the study of law, and give them an education which gives them a strong chance to pass the bar. If they can't do this, they don't deserve to be accredited by the ABA."***
One should always expect the question, “What questions do you have for us?" Students often have a difficult time coming up with good questions. From JDJournal, here are some suggestions:
- What are the performance expectations for this position? How are those reviewed? You know what the job is about (or I hope so), so now you want to find out what exactly they’d expect of you in this role and how they’ll go about evaluating you as well.
- Would I go through any training prior to starting actual work?It’s important to know how a company onboards new employees, and what training will look like for you. Some companies just ask you to watch a video or read something, while other jobs require a month-long training process.
- Can you tell me what sort of advancements I could work towards in this department? Knowing whether there is any mobility in the company and how they advance their employees is important to deciding if this job would be a good move on your own career path.
- What do you enjoy most about working here? You definitely want to know what you’re getting into, so hearing why your interviewer keeps coming in day after day will be insightful for finding out if this is the right company for you.
- What are the next steps in the interview process? Asking this question demonstrates that you are invested in this process and looking forward to next steps. Plus it will keep you from guessing on how long it will take to find out whether or not you’ll be moving forward!
Thursday, February 2, 2017
ABA Journal: LSAT scores at high-risk schools getting worse, according to analysis by law school reform group
"Despite increased attention to admissions standards for ABA-accredited law schools, LSAT numbers and bar-pass rates are getting worse at those schools seen as the most at risk for exploiting students, according to an investigation released Thursday by Law School Transparency."
"The group, which focuses on law school reform, first published its State of Legal Education investigation in 2015. Relying on LSAT scores and bar-pass rates, the 2015 investigation found that 26 ABA-accredited law schools were an “extreme risk” for exploiting students for tuition. Nineteen schools were placed in the “very high risk” category. The 2017 update, which includes seven more law schools, found 22 to be extreme risk schools, and 29 as very high risk schools. Law School Transparency ranks schools’ risk assessment based on what the bottom quartile of admitted students scored on the LSAT."
"The release comes as the ABA’s House of Delegates is set to consider tightening Standard 316, which addresses bar-passage rate standards. . . . Under the proposed revision, 75 percent of the graduates must pass a bar exam within a two-year period. . . . Various groups, including the dean’s steering committee of the Association of American Law Schools, have expressed concern about the proposed revision, which is why Law School Transparency decided to release updated investigation information."
"As critics of the new standards point out, the new standards would cause some low-performing schools to close. But if a school cannot survive without exploiting a large number of students, it should not survive," Law School Transparency writes. "For the students who would have attended these schools and had a reasonable chance at passing the bar, they will find another law school to attend. For the others, they will be better served by not attending law school."
"Out of the law schools found to be an extreme risk in the 2017 update, Western Michigan University Cooley School of Law, Arizona Summit School of Law and Thomas Jefferson School of Law were singled out by Law School Transparency executive director Kyle McEntee in an interview with the ABA Journal."
From Lexis LegalNews
NEW YORK — An Italian music publisher’s claim that the “Mah Na Mah Na” song popularized by the Muppets by is an unauthorized derivative of a 1966 classical composition were dismissed Dec. 29 by a New York federal judge on grounds that the publisher lacks standing to sue for copyright infringement (Creazioni Artistiche Musicali S.r.l. v. Carlin America Inc., et al., No. 14-9270, S.D. N.Y.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 180431).
The judge also opined that under Italian law, there was no copyright violation. You can read more here.
From the movie, here are the muppets and friends singing the song.
At ALI CLE’s Practical Lawyer, Professor Michael Walsh (Villanova) discusses and the six rules and offers thoughts on applying them. The rules are:
- Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print;
- Never use a long word where a short one will do;
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out;
- Never use the passive where you can use the active;
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent; and
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
You can read more here.
Second Biennial Moot Court Conference
Saturday, April 29, 2017
The John Marshall Law School, Chicago, Illinois
The Planning Committee for the Second Biennial Moot Court Conference invites proposals from participants on any topic of interest to those who coach moot court teams and teach appellate advocacy. We welcome individual and collaborative proposals.
- Name(s) and contact information
- Title of presentation
- Brief (one paragraph description)
- Time needed (25 minutes or 50 minutes)
- Technology needed.
In the email subject line, please state: Moot Court 2017 Proposal – [Name].
We hope to complete program selection by February 27. We look forward to receiving your proposals.
The LWI Moot Court Conference Planning Committee
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
A survey of programs of several law schools including U. Colorado, Michigan, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, Suffolk, Tulsa and Emory among others from Law.com:
Getting law students practice-ready by graduation has always been a challenge for law schools, but many schools have begun to look beyond traditional legal training to enable students to compete in an increasingly tech-driven legal market.
Philip Weiser, professor of law at University of Colorado Law School, heads the school’s Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship. He says he thinks that changing law student mindsets to consider the technology needs of future clients, rather than future employers, could give them a leg up after graduation.
“Part of the issue is that we need to train lawyers to think like clients, not to think like lawyers. If lawyers aren’t familiar with how to analyze and present data or how to use technology to do things the way their clients do, whether it’s Excel or PowerPoint, they’re at a huge disadvantage,” Weiser says.
Colorado, along with the University of Michigan Law School, has highlighted entrepreneurialism in their approach to legal technology training. The program Weiser leads connects students to local entrepreneurs and legal departments at technology companies for internships so students can “start to see their roles as problem-solvers and as collaborators” more than just knowledge aggregators.
“I think that corporate legal department experience is going to be 10 [times] more powerful in this direction than most law firms, because most law firms are not going to be at the cutting edge,” Weiser says. He adds that Big Law tends to be “operating at the legacy mode.”
Some law school programs have partnered with technology vendors to get students both technologically prepared for careers in law and thinking about ways they can use technology to boost efficiency and workflow in practice. Several legal technology companies have extended their products to law schools, often for free, in hopes of helping the programs improve their efforts to train students.
Larry Bridgesmith, a professor of law at Vanderbilt University Law School, leads the school’s program on Law & Innovation. This program offers hands-on courses in legal project management and design using technologies like artificial intelligence-based legal research platform ROSS Intelligence, legal virtual assistant tool Kim, and drag-and-drop programming platform Neota Logic. The companies behind all three companies donated their technologies to students.
The program Bridgesmith leads will host its first legal hackathon in April, an event he says “brings students together with practicing lawyers and technologists and system engineers all for the purpose of learning how to work with each other.” Collaboration with technologists is a key skill for the next generation of attorneys, Bridgesmith says.
His goal in the hackathon is “not to make a lawyer an engineer or a developer, but to get used to working together to accomplish something.”
Kevin Mulcahy, director of education for Neota Logic, teaches two courses at Georgetown University Law Center using the Neota Logic drag-and-drop coding platform. Like Bridgesmith, he thinks that asking attorneys to pull double duty as attorneys and programmers is a fairly unreasonable approach to new demands for technology literacy in the legal industry, but that working with technologists could produce some much-needed tools for the field.
“Traditional coding languages that have been around for dozens of decades now require too much dedication [to learn]. The knowledge expert is not going to be the same person as the programmer,” he says.
But while attorneys may not need to be full-fledged coders, Mulcahy thinks that familiarizing attorneys with machine language is likely to spur innovation within law firms. He says attorneys “cannot rely on manual processes to be their exclusive way of making a living, they have to supplement that with power tools.”
At Vanderbilt and Georgetown University Law Center, coursework connects law students with local nonprofit organizations and undergraduate student programmers to develop a tool that nonprofit groups can use to support their constituencies. The tool has been used to provide advice, conduct intake, prepare forms, as just a few examples of its applications.
“We’re offering hands-on experiences,” Bridgesmith says of Vanderbilt’s experiential coursework, adding that the ABA’s 2013 decision to tie accreditation to experiential learning is encouraging this practice across law school tech innovation programs.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
One expert argues no—artificial intelligence (AI) won’t drastically reduce jobs for lawyers. A.J. Shankar, CEO, of Everlaw argues that AI has too many limitations:
That brings us to one of the two main reasons AI won’t eclipse attorneys. AI thrives on data, and legal cases simply don’t have enough of it. A training set in a legal matter might consist of a thousand documents. That sounds like a lot, but it’s dwarfed by training sets for deep learning systems, which might be thousands of times as large. As a rule, the less training data you have, the less capable your AI can become — and the more it will need human supervision.
The second reason is related, and perhaps even more important. Training an AI requires not just a lot of data, but data from the same general context. Supervised AI excels at tasks whose context doesn’t change from instance to instance. The practice of law is nothing like that. It’s a bewildering collision of contexts: language, business operations, societal structure and mores, law, slang, implication. It’s subjective and ill-defined, logical and emotional. Gray areas abound. It’s the sort of environment where humans excel — and AI shows its limitations.
You can read more here at Bloomberg Law’s Big Law Business.
Here is a short video of the ceremony in Punxsutawney, PA, the home of Pennsylvania’s favorite groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil.
Here’s the trailer for the well-known movie.
I’ve been to the festivities and so has my favorite groundhog, daughter Laura, who was born on Feb. 2. She is very proud of her birth date.
"Three funding options are on the table for Charlotte School of Law students as the school continues to grapple with its next steps."
"That includes a 20% tuition discount for students who self-fund their education costs.
Students who received federal financial aid for the fall 2016/spring 2017 academic year are entitled to a remaining disbursement of funds — despite Charlotte Law’s termination from the financial aid program. [Is this true? If you know for sure, please make a comment.]
'Unfortunately, we do not yet know when those funds will be disbursed,' the email reads.
Funds will be issued to student accounts immediately once available. That means students also will be awarded their living stipends.
If those funds are not disbursed — or students were not eligible for the school year — institutional loans will be offered at a 20% discount.
No living expenses will be paid if federal funds fail to materialize or students take an institutional loan."
Is the above adequate? I have strong doubts, but we have not yet heard from the affected students. If you know anything more, please tell us in the comments.
I will post updates as they become available.
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Open records laws have a salutary purpose. But there’s also a downside. From a posting by Andi Curcio at Best Practices for Legal Education (Jan.15):
Along with 1,400 other law professors, I signed a letter opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States. As a law professor, I signed this letter because of my concerns about maintaining the integrity of the legal system.
Shortly after the law professors’ letter was published, my university counsel’s office got an Open Records Act request seeking my emails.
The request, from a reporter working for a conservative political publication, sought: “a copy of each email (inbound, outbound, deleted, or double deleted) for the university email accounts of Andrea A. Curcio and [a colleague who also signed the letter] from the dates of December 15, 2016, to and including January 3, 2017, which includes any of the keywords “Sessions,” or “Jeff Sessions” or “Attorney General.””
A similar request was sent to university counsel for law professor signatories working at other public institutions.
Ugh. You can read more here.
Can Practicing Mindfulness Improve Lawyer Decision-Making, Ethics, and Leadership? by Peter H. Huang.