Monday, December 1, 2014
The ranking methodology is based on a survey of "American legal professionals" (though only 52% of the survey participants had a law degree so it's not clear whether or how they were screened) along with applicant acceptance rates on the front end and employment rates on the tail end using USNWR and ABA data, respectively, to come up with a total "score." The BI scaled those scores and then ranked schools accordingly. You can read more about the methodology here. Below is the list of Top 10 schools but click on this link to see the complete list of Top 50.
- U.C. - Berkeley
Ohio’s Attorney General will investigate how public universities use and train student disciplinary boards. His announcement follows an investigation on campus crime:
The investigation found that campus judicial systems, which operate in secret, often impose light sanctions for serious infractions: sexual assaults, physical assaults resulting in serious injuries, robberies and other violent crimes, the Dispatch reported.
Both victims and the students accused of these violations have said the system is unfair and broken, the newspaper said.
Private proceedings are held by campus-conduct boards, which include college administrators, students and faculty volunteers with little or no legal training.
The panels have the authority to expel students or to let those accused of violent acts stay on campus.
You can read more here.
While the AG seems to be concerned that these boards often impose light sentences for serious crimes, I have another concern. People who are not legally trained—including non-law students and college administrators--often have no appreciation of due process.
As a result, the accused may have no guarantee of a fair proceeding. Board members also may have little understanding of standard ways to evaluate evidence and construe the text of rules. Legally trained individuals (us?) ought to play a role in these proceedings.
The New York Times has an article today on the law school admissions crisis. (here) Mostly stuff those in the business already know, but this will be read by a national audience.
Excerpt: "In the new topsy-turvy law school world, students are increasingly in control as nearly all of the 204 accredited law schools battle for the students with the best academic credentials. Gone are the days when legal educators bestowed admittance and college graduates gratefully accepted, certain that they were on the path to a highly paid, respectable career."
One of my co-bloggers mentioned this article a couple of weeks ago. However, I am returning to it today because I think it is a very important article.
Traditional Business Associations courses (Corporations) have been taught in the same way that most law school courses have been taught--through the Socratic method using appellate cases. Professor Wagner notes, however, that "teaching transactional law as part of the Business Associations course is necessary because the practice of business law is essentially transactional in nature. It is my belief that we mislead our students and give them a distorted view of business law practice when we focus almost exclusively on case law analysis in this course. By adopting this approach, we leave our students with the misimpression that business law practice is primarily about litigation." She adds that when she joined the business law department of a law firm, "This was a whole new world for me and one that my law school education had not really prepared me for except in the most general sense of helping me to cultivate my analytical and writing skills."
Professor Wagner declares, "with a little thought and advance planning, it is possible to incorporate aspects of transactional lawyering even while using one of the standard casebooks." Professor Wagner begins her course by defining business lawyer: "a business lawyer is one who represents clients in the for profit sector by advising them on legal and regulatory matters arising in their operations and transactions. Business lawyers strive to further their clients’ goals within the constraints of the law by counseling them on the use of different forms of business organization for conducting their operations and legal issues that arise in such operations, structuring, documenting, negotiating and closing their business transactions and complying with related government regulations. Business lawyers are problems solvers and planners. They are forward looking and engaged in preventative lawyering. They add value to transactions by advising their clients on the best ways to achieve their objectives as expeditiously as possible, at the lowest cost and without undertaking undue risk. Their goal is to maximize private ordering and to minimize government involvement in the form of litigation or investigations." On the other hand, "Litigation involves looking backward and reexamining and reconstructing what has already happened and gone wrong and is not concerned with trying to anticipate and plan for what will happen in the future." "Business lawyers need to know the substantive law that affects their clients’ operations and transactions so that they can give competent advice. This is in contrast to the work of litigators who focus on procedure and need to know less about the law governing their clients’ business operations than do the business lawyers who are planners."
Professor Wagner points out, "There is a growing body of literature on innovative methods of teaching business law." She continues, "Business Associations is taught as a second year elective in my law school and it presents a good opportunity to familiarize students with some aspects of the transactional practice of law, an area that they are unlikely to have been exposed to in their first year curriculum. It is important to approach the subject matter this way since business law is fundamentally transactional in nature."
She then suggests several ways to incorporate transactional skills into Business Associations.
1. Review Problems. "A problem based approach can also be used to highlight the importance of deploying transactional skills such as identifying issues in a complex fact pattern that may have gaping holes, generating alternative solutions in the face of ambiguity, assessing risks and benefits of the various alternatives and choosing the best possible option among alternatives, even though none may be optimal." "One of the first review problems that I give the class involves the specter of corporate liability for unauthorized contracts entered into by an agent. The main purpose of the problem is to review the rules on creation of agency and theories of authority that can bind a principal to an agent’s actions even though the agent has acted beyond the scope of her authority. But this discussion can lead into a conversation about the need for risk mitigation by the principal. Students can brainstorm about steps the corporation could take to better train its employees or otherwise exercise more control over their actions to reduce the risk of their running amok." She adds, "The beauty of carefully crafted problems is that they introduce the students to the idea of ambiguity in legal decision-making and the need to identify the best available alternative among a range of options, even though the alternative chosen may not be perfect. The ability to operate effectively and give advice in gray areas is a necessary quality for transactional lawyers."
2. Deal Structure and Flow. "I also use a close examination of the facts of certain cases to teach the legal structure and flow of various kinds of transactions. This presents the opportunity to introduce deal concepts that would otherwise be difficult to tie into the course content."
3. Distinguishing Legal Decisions and Business Decisions in Transactions. "[T]here is a distinction in business transactions between decisions that lawyers are competent to make and those that the client must make." "Taking Smith v. Van Gorkom as an example, the controversy involved an allegedly unfair price to be paid by the acquirer for the shares of the target in a cash out merger, which was accepted by the board of the target company but later challenged by shareholders of the target. While the determination of an acceptable price involves a business decision to be taken in the first instance by the target’s board of directors, the lawyer for the target has an important role to play in counseling the board about its fiduciary duties to shareholders in the context of a merger, including the proper procedure to be followed in determining such price, as well as the proper procedure to be followed in satisfying the steps needed to obtain board and shareholder approval of the transaction."
4. Lawyer As Planner Exercises. "I often speak to my students about how a bad result in a case can be used as a learning experience. I call this the lawyer as planner approach. I ask my students to speculate about the cause of the breakdown in the relationship between the parties that led to the litigation."
5. Formation of Business Associations. "A task that many business lawyers will be called upon to perform in their careers is to advise their clients on an appropriate vehicle for their business enterprise. Once a choice has been made, the lawyer will then be tasked with forming a business association on behalf of her clients. I believe it is important for law students to become familiar with the steps required to organize business entities under state law and the type of documentation that must be prepared. In addition, students should be aware of ongoing steps that must be taken to retain the corporate franchise or other form of business association and to dissolve or terminate the business."
6. Guest Speakers. "I often invite Saint Louis attorneys to speak to my Business Associations class in order to introduce a practitioners’ perspective and to address specialized issues that go beyond the scope of the substantive content of the course."
In sum, Professor Wagner is teaching Business Associations exactly as it should be taught--as a combination litigation/transactional course.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Whether you're thinking about transitioning out of law practice altogether or you're a new grad considering a "JD-advantage" job, you might find this post helpful from the blog "leave the law behind." The post, called "How to think about your legal skills to position them for a non legal job," is by Casey Berman, a former lawyer who left the law himself more than 10 years ago and now helps unhappy lawyers transition into other careers. The list of tips he offers for repurposing your legal skills for the non-legal job market are not especially earth-shattering (i.e. lawyers have good communication skills, they know how to handle clients, they are good project managers, etc.) but some who are unsure about how to characterize their legal skillset for resumes targeting non-legal employers might find it a good brainstorming tool. Check it out - it might shake loose some ideas for better ways to target JD-Advantage employers.
Saturday, November 29, 2014
The Lawyerist Blog has a good post on deposition tips for new lawyers. It's authored by Evan Schaeffer who has written a book called Deposition Checklists and Strategies. In his Lawyerist post, Evan outlines 6 techniques he says are intended to help new lawyers get over the jitters of taking their first few depos. You'll have to head over to the Lawyerist to check out the tips in full but here's the outline:
- Show up early.
- Make small talk.
- Keep your temper in check.
- Don't be a slave to your outline.
- Be an active listener
- Critique yourself.
Over at “Best Practices for Legal Education (Nov. 14), Margaret Moore Jackson argues that the importance of the MBE may be compelling law schools to focus on multiple choice test taking skills rather than on quality legal education:
Lawyers don’t need multiple choice test-taking skills to be effective in their work, but law graduates must master this form of test-taking to gain a professional license. So law schools, and their curriculum committees, must consider the extent to which they will shoulder the responsibility for preparing students for the bar exam – including improving their ability to succeed on multiple choice tests. Even before this marked decline in scores, many schools had already changed their bar preparation efforts from subtle to overt.
But at a time when law schools are focusing on teaching integrated doctrine, skills, and values, an already ambitious undertaking, is it backtracking to reconsider the multiple choice test – like LSAT prep all over again – instead of progressively developing knowledge and true professional competence? Or is it appropriate to simultaneously develop the skills students need to pass the (often criticized) bar exam?
You can read the rest here. I don’t think a misuse of educational resources is a problem at my school. I can’t speak for other shops.
Friday, November 28, 2014
According to this video (below) from the New York Times, it hasn't taken long for pranksters to start misusing home hobbyist drones (you can buy some pretty sophisticated ones via Amazon) to buzz pedestrians, scare little kids in the park and (with their HiDef video cameras) go where prying eyes are not allowed. Now the FAA has gotten involved and is currently considering rules to regulate drone use. One law professor has already weighed in on the legal complexities associated with "drone law" (e.g., apportioning liability between the drone owner, the manufacturer, the software maker and the hacker - assuming your drone gets commandeered by a nefarious prankster before crashing into the plaintiff). Based on this short NYT video which shows drones, among other things, causing a riot, ruining a wedding, harassing wildlife and illegally flying over a nuclear power plant, this looks to be a hot new legal niche. Remember, you heard it here first.
At a recent bar committee meeting with practicing lawyers, I once again recognized a significant gap between professors and practitioners.
Talk to a practitioner who cares about writing clearly and effectively. What or whom does the practitioner mention as an authority for good advice? Strunk & White and possibly one of a handful of professionals who make the Continuing Legal Education Circuit.
No offense to these authorities, but there is a rich literature out there that could benefit the practicing bar. We should think about ways to erase the line (to coin a phrase) that separates the practitioner and the professor.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Travel & Leisure offers us a list of the 20 best college towns in the USA, according to the magazine’s readers.
At the top of the list is Syracuse. (I wonder if any of the evaluators made a visit during the winter snow season.) Lafayette, LA places second (University of Louisiana at Lafayette, South Louisiana Community College, Louisiana Technical College).
Here is the complete list.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Law deans ask National Conference of Bar Examiners to conduct "thorough investigation" of drop in exam scores
According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, 80 deans representing mostly middle-ranked and public law schools have signed a letter to the NCBE asking for a "thorough investigation of the administration and scoring of the July 2014 bar exam" in light of the double-digit drop in bar pass rates experienced by several schools. The NCBE has said the drop in exams scores is due to a weaker graduating class rather than any problem with the exam or the scoring. A few weeks ago, we told you about similar kerfuffle between the NCBE and the Dean of Brooklyn Law School. You can check out the full details on this latest multi-school dust-up via the Wall Street Journal Law Blog here.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
The rankings are based on the methodology used by the Blakely Advocacy Institute at U. Houston School of Law which rates each law school based on its combined score for all ABA approved moot court competitions. The BAI then invites the top 16 schools in the nation to the Andrew Kurth Moot Court Competition in January to decide "the best of the best." Using the BAI's criteria, National Jurist Magzine ranked law school moot court programs as follows:
- Florida Coastal
- South Texas College of Law
- Texas Tech
- U. Georgia
- Seton Hall
- U. Miami
See the schools ranked 11- 20 here.
The University of Baltimore Law School and Hofstra Law School are offering law courses in sunny Curacao:
Consider a program in an exotic destination like Curaçao, which is jointly offered by the University of Baltimore School of Law and Hofstra University, Maurice A. Deane School of Law.
“In addition to spending Christmas on a Caribbean beach, the highlights of the program were the multiple field trips to various national and local government offices to experience firsthand comparative and international law,” said Clark Smith, a third-year law student at the University of Baltimore. “We visited the local prosecutor’s office to discuss Curaçao’s legal system based on Dutch law and to the U.S. Consulate to learn about cooperation on drug interdiction between the U.S. and Curaçao.”
Catherine Moore, Coordinator for International Programs at the University of Baltimore, said students often bring their families to accompany them on the three-week trip to Curaçao, which overlaps with the holiday season.
You can read more here. As law schools seek new ways to attract students and make money, I am sure we will see more winter break courses.
Recently, Avvo, a website that rates professionals, created a profile and rated me. (Of course, anyone who picks a lawyer based on a website like this deserves what he or she gets.) Because I don't practice law, I asked Avvo to remove my profile. Here is its response.(The inability to spell my name correctly does not give confidence is the quality of the operation) Any suggestions?
Wired recently published an article on active learning. (here) Some excerpts:
"Think back to when you learned how to ride a bike. You probably didn’t master this skill by listening to a series of riveting lectures on bike riding. Instead, you tried it out for yourself, made mistakes, fell down a few times, picked yourself back up, and tried again. When mastering an activity, there’s no substitute for the interaction and feedback that comes from practice."
"A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences addressed this question by conducting the largest and most comprehensive review of the effect of active learning on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. Their answer is a resounding yes. According to Scott Freeman, one of the authors of the new study, 'The impact of these data should be like the Surgeon General’s report on “Smoking and Health” in 1964–they should put to rest any debate about whether active learning is more effective than lecturing.'”
"1. Students in a traditional lecture course are 1.5 times more likely to fail, compared to students in courses with active learning." "The authors point out that, were this a medical study, an effect size this large and statistically significant would warrant stopping the study and administering the treatment to everyone in the study."
"2. Students in active learning classes outperform those in traditional lectures on identical exams" "On average, students taught with active learning outperformed those taught by lectures by 6 percentage points on their exam. That’s the difference between bumping a B- to a B or a B to a B+."
Conclusion: "“[Under active learning,] students learn more, which means we’re doing our job better. They get higher grades and fail less, meaning that they are more likely to stay in STEM majors, which should help solve a major national problem. Finally, there is a strong ethical component. There is a growing body of evidence showing that active learning differentially benefits students of color and/or students from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or women in male-dominated fields. It’s not a stretch to claim that lecturing actively discriminates against underrepresented students.”
At this point I usually add some comments. However, this article says it all.
(Scott Fruehwald) (emphasis in original)
Monday, November 24, 2014
Professor Daniel Willingham, a cognitive psychologist at UVA and author of Why Students Don't Like School (hint - it's because learning is hard), has written before about the lack of empirical data supporting the theory of learning styles (including in the aforementioned book). Here is another short article he wrote for the TES blog which bills itself as the world's largest online community for teachers. The article is called Classroom Practice – Listen Closely, Learning Styles are a Lost Cause can be found here. Learning styles are controversial and provoke strong feelings among many teachers insofar as some are convinced of their existence no matter what people like Professor Willingham claim while others remain skeptical in light of the studies that have failed to prove that, for example, students who identify as visual learners score better on tests when the teacher uses visual techniques than if the same material is taught using a different modality like aural, kinesthetic, etc. This most recent article likely won't change many minds but is still worth a glance if you're interested in the topic. Here's an excerpt:
. . . .
In many schools – indeed, in some teacher training institutions – learning styles are treated as proven fact. And although some teachers have accepted that this faith is misguided, others fight the truth and vigorously defend the theory. A common argument is that their teaching has always been informed by learning styles and their experience bears out the theory’s utility. The science, they say, must be wrong. I can assure you, it is not.
Most studies on the theory tend to test it as follows:
- Step 1 – determine the “learning style” of, say, 100 people.
- Step 2 – offer an experience that is consistent with the style of half the group and inconsistent with the style of the other half. For example, if you have 50 people with a “visual style”, show 25 of them a silent film that depicts a story and make the other 25 listen to an audio version of the story. Then do the same for the 50 people with an auditory style: half experience the story in their preferred style (by listening) and half in their non-preferred style (by watching).
- Step 3 – measure people’s comprehension of the story or their memory of it some time later.
If learning styles existed, the people who had experienced the story in their preferred style would get more out of it. Unfortunately, all the studies show that this core prediction simply does not hold; not for children with typical development and not for children who have learning difficulties.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
According to Harrison Barnes at LawCrossing, here are 12 sins you should NOT commit on a resume:
1. Emphasizing responsibilities but not accomplishments -- or, conversely, getting bogged down in minutiae.
2. Telling (instead of showing) the reader how wonderful you are.
3. Allowing chronology to determine structure.
4. Using a "one size fits all" approach.
5. Wasting critical space under your name with a prominent display of your address and phone number.
6. Making margins so wide that the text is forced into narrow columns.
7. Including your photograph.
8. Using small print.
9. Using a scripted font.
10. Using bold typeface for standard categories.
11. Having your legal resume professionally printed.
12. Failing to take into account how the means of transmittal will alter the appearance.
You can find full explanations here.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
The publication of a new paper by Richard Sander, Mismatch and the Empirical Scholars Brief, has reopened the controversy concerning affirmative action in law schools and his "mismatch hypothesis." (here) The mismatch hypothesis "postulate[s] that very large preferences--racial or of any other kind--may undermine student learning, because professors tend to teach to the middle of their class, and students far below the middle will have trouble keeping up and advancing as concepts build day by day."
There has been a great deal of criticism of Sander's hypothesis. However, I would like to approach it from a different angle: regardless of whether Sander is correct, can law schools overcome the seeming disadvantages that students admitted through affirmative action display by adopting new teaching techniques? I believe that the answer to this question is yes.
There has a great deal of criticism of law schools' approach to legal education, particularly the Socratic method, the case book approach, and the paucity of practical experiences. While many disagree, I find these criticisms devastating. Law schools are using a nineteenth-century approach to solve a twenty-first-century problem. Even the philosophical basis of the Langdellian method has been thoroughly refuted. (here)
A recent study has demonstrated that smaller classes, personal attention, active learning, and frequent formative assessment can eliminate the gender gap in g.p.a. for law school graduates. While I know of no similar study in the law concerning minorities, studies in other fields show that new approaches to teaching, particularly the use of active learning and developing a growth mindset, help at risk students perform better. (e.g., Daniel T. Willingham, Why Students Don't Like School Ch. 8 (2009), here, here, here, here, here) For example, a "recent study, focusing on different sections of an introductory biology class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that active learning is particularly beneficial to African-American students and first-generation college students. All students' test scores combined rose more than three points in classes structured around active learning, but African-American and first-generation students in active-learning classes saw scores rise more than six points." (here)
If law schools are going to admit students through affirmative action programs, they have the responsibility to make sure that those students succeed. They should not be thrown into the pool to sink or swim. As the old saying goes "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Affirmative action programs without more effective approaches to teaching are liking giving a man a fish. Law schools need to teach men and women to fish so that they can succeed as lawyers.