Sunday, July 6, 2014

Exciting New Book on Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is a major part of legal education reform.  Three experts on legal education, Sophie Sparrow, Gerald F. Hess, and Michael Hunter Schwartz, have written a book on formative assessment, Assessment: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Law Schools, which is scheduled to appear later this year.

"This book will serve as a crucial resource for law school administrators, professors, and staff who are interested or involved in assessing their students, courses, teachers, programs, and institutions. The book will draw on current research on assessment and provide a practical approach to comprehensive assessment. The book will include concrete suggestions and examples and communicate in a straightforward accessible style. In addition to writing the majority of the text, the authors will report on effective assessment methods used currently by law schools. Individual chapters will focus on 1) purpose of assessment; 2) assessment fundamentals at all levels; 3) assessing student learning; 4) students' role in assessment; 5) assessing law school curricula and programs; 6) assessing law school teaching; 7) assessing the law school as an institution; and 8) creating a culture of assessment. In addition, the book will provide examples of assessment used by a variety of law schools and include sample forms and checklists to make assessment manageable."

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Again with the legal incubators - Widener Law (Harrisburg) plans to launch a program this fall

The ABA must once again update its database of law school incubator programs (here) because Widener Law School (Harrisburg campus) has just announced a joint endeavor with the Dauphin County Bar Association to launch its own incubator program this fall.  (For more coverage by this blog on the incubators started by other schools go hereherehereherehereherehere and here). has more details about Widener's program: 

Widener Law, Dauphin County Bar Association starting law firm incubator program


Widener Law in Harrisburg and the Dauphin County Bar Association will be working together to launch an incubator program this fall for new lawyers looking to start a solo practice or small law firm.

The two groups are taking applications from interested lawyers who graduated in 2014 from Widener Law, according to a news release on the program.


The two or three lawyers accepted to the one-year program will receive office space at the Dauphin County Bar Association on North Front Street in Harrisburg, and the association also will provide networking opportunities.


Widener Law Associate Clinical Professor J. Palmer Lockard II also will lead training sessions for the attorneys in the program and serve as a mentor, according to the news release. The attorneys also will have computer and printing equipment as part of the program.


They will have to pay for malpractice insurance and, during the program, do 100 hours of pro bono legal work, which Mid Penn Legal Services will coordinate. They'll also be encouraged to do "low bono" work.

"This program is dynamic because it not only gives the new attorneys legal experience and business skills, but it adds affordable legal services to the community," Widener Law Interim Co-Dean Robyn L. Meadows, who oversees the Harrisburg campus, said in the news release. "We hope it will build a lasting appreciation for the importance of assisting the underserved, no matter where their careers take them."

. . . .

Continue reading here.


July 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Misused Words (2)

Here are more words that I find frequently misused.

Decimate and Devastate. To “devastate” is to destroy, totally or almost totally. To “decimate” is to destroy a significant portion—literally, one-tenth. To say that a lawyer’s argument decimated the opponent’s position usually is incorrect. The write probably means to say that the lawyer’s argument devastated the opponent’s position.

E.g. and I.e. “E.g.” means “for example”—“exempli gratia,” in Latin. “I.e.” means “that is”—“id est,” in Latin. The abbreviations are not interchangeable. Except in footnotes, the better practice is to spell out “for example” and “that is.”

Imply and Infer. To “imply” is to suggest, usually as a logical consequence. To “infer” is to deduce from evidence.

Here are some examples from Grammar Girl:


But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. — Carl Sagan

I would not wish to imply that most industrial accidents are due to intemperance. But, certainly, temperance has never failed to reduce their number. — William Lyon Mackenzie King


From a drop of water a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other. — Arthur Conan Doyle

We infer the spirit of the nation in great measure from the language, which is a sort of monument, to which each forcible individual in a course of many hundred years has contributed a stone. — Ralph Waldo Emerson


July 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

A Great Legal Writing Conference in Philadelphia

I have just returned from the Legal Writing Institute’s Biennial Conference, held in Philadelphia. With every conference, the presentations grow more sophisticated and helpful. And the conference offers us the opportunity to meet up with old friends and make new ones. This year, the conference drew 540 registrants.

Here is a set of photos, compliments of Ken Chestek.

And here are 9:23 minutes of slides, compliments of Karin Mika.


July 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Misused Words (1)

Here are three sets of misused words that I encounter too frequently. Three more tomorrow.

Affect and Effect. To “affect” (the verb) means to influence, to help bring about a result. To “effect” (the verb) means to cause something. “Effect” (the noun) means the result.

His lack of preparation affected the quality of his oral argument.

If implemented, the proposal will effect economies of scale.

The new statute had minimal effect on the case law.

A lot and Alot. There is no such word as “alot.” The word “allot” means to allocate; it does not mean “many” or “much.” For me, “a lot” is too informal for professional writing. I prefer a word like “many.”

Compliment and Complement. A “compliment” is an expression of praise or approval. To “complement” is to enhance or improve.

The two proposals complement one another.


July 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips and apps for editing your social media accounts

This is a very helpful, short video from the New York Times' personal technology columnist Molly Wood about how to edit your Facebook and Twitter history.  Want to delete old Twitter posts?  Want to set Twitter to automatically delete posts after a certain number of days?  No problem - there's an app for that.  Watch and learn, baby!


July 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Vermont Law School starts incubator program for new grads

According to this press release, Vermont Law School in partnership with the Vermont Bar Association will be starting an incubator project to help new grads launch solos practices in underserved areas of the state.  That makes more than 20 law schools (and bar associations) to start incubator projects according to this list maintained by the ABA.  Many of these incubator projects provide participants with subsidized (or free) on-campus office space as well as mentorship.  While mentorship and supervision are being provided to the 3 students selected to participate in Vermont's inaugural incubator program, it's unclear from the press release whether they'll also get free office space too. Participating students will join the program for 18 months by which point they will presumably have financially sustainable solo practices.  Here are more details from the press release:

Vermont Law School has partnered with the Vermont Bar Association to launch a project to help new lawyers establish law practices in underserved areas of Vermont.


The “Lawyer Incubator Pilot Project” supports new lawyers who want to pursue solo or small firm practice in Vermont and in the process help provide legal services in underserved populations and geographic areas of the state. The program helps new lawyers by building their competence and confidence through trainings and mentorship.


The 18-month pilot project will run through September 2015 and, if successful, continue in future years.


 . . . .


“We are pleased to assist these promising young attorneys as they learn to develop and manage successful law practices and serve Vermont residents in need of their help,” said Professor Margaret Barry, associate dean for clinical and experiential programs at Vermont Law School, ranked No. 18 in the nation for clinical training. “The Lawyer Incubator Pilot Project reflects Vermont Law School’s commitment to using the power of the law to make a difference in the lives of Vermonters.”


Barry, who practices law at the nonprofit South Royalton Legal Clinic, facilitates the program with Mary Ashcroft, pro bono coordinator for the Vermont Bar Association.


. . . .

Continue reading the press release here.  The National Law Journal also has some additional details here about the agreed workload for participants and their pledge to forego seeking other employment while enrolled in the program.

Hat tip to the National Law Journal.


July 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Who Was the Real Kingsfield?

“Paper Chase,” the book, movie, and  TV series, feature the unforgettable law professor, Charles Kingsfield—a formidable character who resonates with the law school lives of many law professors and older law  students. But on whom did author John J. Osborn, Jr. base the socratic master? Here’s one answer, according to Wikipedia:

During an event at Harvard Law School to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the book's release, the author said that the character was a composite of several of his professors at Harvard Law School, saying, "It wasn’t like it was hard to find role models."[2][3] Many Harvard Law graduates believe the character to be a composite of Contracts professor Clark Byse [4][5] and Property Law professor A.J. Casner, legendary intimidating users of the Socratic method. Osborn has stated that Contracts was his favorite law school course.[6] John Houseman, who played the role in the film and television series, said that he based his performance, in part, on stories he was told by former students of Earl Henry Warren, a professor at the law school from 1904-45. Warren, who taught a first-year property-law course, was famous at the school for his sarcastic comments during lectures and intimidating manner. Houseman's performance was also based on his experience as a professor and director of the drama department at the Juilliard School.[7]

You can read more about the Paper Chase here.


July 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Affirmative Action Debate Continues

There has been a lot of discussion on affirmative action over the past few years.  Professors Richard Sanders and Stuart Taylor, Jr. have argued that affirmative action actully harms minorities who receive it in their book, Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It (2012).  From the Abstract:

"Sander and Taylor have long admired affirmative action’s original goals, but after many years of studying racial preferences, they have reached a controversial but undeniable conclusion: that preferences hurt underrepresented minorities far more than they help them. At the heart of affirmative action’s failure is a simple phenomenon called mismatch. Using dramatic new data and numerous interviews with affected former students and university officials of color, the authors show how racial preferences often put students in competition with far better-prepared classmates, dooming many to fall so far behind that they can never catch up. Mismatch largely explains why, even though black applicants are more likely to enter college than whites with similar backgrounds, they are far less likely to finish; why there are so few black and Hispanic professionals with science and engineering degrees and doctorates; why black law graduates fail bar exams at four times the rate of whites; and why universities accept relatively affluent minorities over working class and poor people of all races."

Now, Professor Harry G. Hutchinson has written a review of  the book, Affirmative Action: Between the Oikos and the Cosmos.


This essay reviews Sander & Taylor’s book, MISMATCH: HOW AFFIRMATIVE ACTION HURTS STUDENTS IT’S INTENDED TO HELP, AND WHY UNIVERSITIES WON’T ADMIT IT (MISMATCH) by situating its claims within a context. Context is supplied by examining three things: first, by reflecting on the contradictions embedded in the modern world; second, by exploring the paradoxes of Supreme Court jurisprudence; and finally, by observing the gulf between the cosmopolitan ideal predicated on appeals to Americans as citizens of the world who are provoked by reason and love of humanity and bounded only by universal moral obligations on the one hand, and a vision that sees citizens of the United States as individuals who are bounded by the primacy of their commitment to the nostos comprised by the local community of birth and the particularities of family and nation, on the other.

Several reasons spark this review of MISMATCH. First, the authors contend that they have “demonstrated that the present system of racial admissions preferences has grave problems and has shown a remarkable incapacity to heal itself,” a thesis that is made all the more puzzling given their corresponding claim that the United States “Supreme Court seems to be the only hope for serious and stable reform” of our current affirmative action system. Second, William Kidder and others have raised a number of serious issues that indicate Sander & Taylor have too often relied on either questionable data or incomplete data analysis. Third, the Court’s recent decision upholding the state of Michigan’s ban on racial preferences. Fourth and finally, the possibility that diversity as practiced within leading American universities has been transmuted into racial commodification. These factors, taken together, suggest that it is a propitious time to review the authors’ scholarship.
P.S. The Texas A & M Law Review recently published my article, How to Help Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Succeed in Law School.  Rather than rehashing the affirmative action debate, it might be better to make sure that all students succeed in law school.

July 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

BU will implement new practical legal skills program for 1L students next year

While practical legal skills are all the rage these days, typically law students are not eligible to enroll in such courses (or clinics) until their second or third year.  BU Law School is going to change that by implementing a new mandatory program for 1Ls next year called the "Lawyering Lab." It will be a week long, one credit course where students will get exposed to transactional legal work through a simulated business deal.  The National Law Journal has more details:

Boston University to Offer Real-World Training to 1Ls

. . . .


All 1Ls will be required to complete the school’s so-called Lawyering Lab—a weeklong, one-credit course in which they will learn transactional law by simulating a business deal.


“The course requires students to marshal the legal concepts they have learned and to bring them to bear on a real-world problem,” said professor Kent Coit, who heads the school’s transactional law program. “Students will practice key lawyering skills to achieve a client’s objectives within the bounds of the law.”


The students will role-play as attorneys representing business clients on two sides of a deal. They will be presented with a scenario based on a transaction between a large U.S.-based company and a small foreign company. The deal centers on the commercialization of medical device technology owned by the foreign firm, and involves litigation between the two parties.


The 1Ls will review a supply agreement and draft a contract geared at avoiding future litigation. They will identify the client’s goals and any legal constraints and opportunities, working under deadlines in collaboration with colleagues.


“Through interactive discussion and hands-on exercises, the students will consider whether a business deal should be pursued by their respective clients, and what the deal should look like,” said professor Fred Tung, who will lead the initiative.

. . . .

Continue reading here.


July 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Happy Fourth of July!

To celebrate, here are

Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, performed by the Northumberland Brass.

A cartoon lesson from School House Rock.


July 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

PreLaw Magazine's list of law schools that offer the best practical training for part-time students

PreLaw Magazine, a National Jurist publication, has published a list of the top law schools for practical legal skills training when it comes to part-time students.  PreLaw Magazine had previously published a list in the spring identifying the top 60 schools for practical skills training for full-time students (here and here).  PreLaw and National Jurist EIC Jack Crittenden said that for both lists, the magazine ranked schools based on four factors which include the number of faculty supervised clinical positions per enrolled students, the number of field placements or externships per enrollment and the number of simulation courses per enrollment.  The magazine then weights these factors in favor of real-client based practical training over mock or simulated experiences.  The fourth factor involved calling schools on the short list to gather additional information about the practical training opportunities offered.  For now, PreLaw lists the top 22 schools alphabetically.  We have to wait until the August issue is published to learn how the magazine ranked each school that made the list.  Click here to see if your school is on it.


July 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

How to Find Good Quotations

Have you tried This site contains a great number of quotable quotes and a search engine to help you locate what you are looking for. For example, if you search “Oliver Wendell Holmes,” the first quote you find is:

  • Get      down, you fool!
    • Assertion       famously directed at then-President Abraham Lincoln       when he came under enemy fire at Fort Stevens during the American Civil       War, as quoted in Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of       Abraham Lincoln (2005) by Doris Kearns Goodwin, p. 643.

If you search “Judges,” you can find this quotation from Justice Cardozo:

  • There      is in each of us a stream of tendency, whether you choose to call it      philosophy or not, which gives coherence and direction to thought and      action. Judges cannot escape that current any more than other mortals. All      their lives, forces which they do not recognize and cannot name, have been      tugging at them — inherited instincts, traditional beliefs, acquired      convictions; and the resultant is an outlook on life, a conception of      social needs. ... In this mental background every problem finds it      setting. We may try to see things as objectively as we please. None the      less, we can never see them with any eyes except our own.

Alas, not all quotes give pinpoint cites.


July 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

AALL Task Force Report on the state of new lawyers' legal research skills

A special task force appointed by the Academic Law Libraries Special Interest Section (“ALL-SIS”) of the Association of American Law Libraries ("AALL") has just released its 2014 report identifying the legal research practices, skills and proficiencies of new lawyers.  The purpose of the task force was to identify the legal research skills new lawyers need to succeed in practice.  For the 2014 report, a survey was distributed to both practicing attorneys as well as law librarians to enable the task force to compare the responses from each group regarding how often attorneys used particular research tools and their proficiency with them.  The second portion of the survey asked respondents how well recent law school graduates performed certain legal research skills. 

Perhaps not suprisingly, the law librarian respondents rated the proficiency of new lawyers "significantly more negative" than similarly situated lawyers rated themselves.  As the introduction notes "on question after question, a significantly greater proportion of the librarians rated the ability of recent graduates to carry out the research task at issue as 'unacceptable,' 'poor' or both, than did the attorneys."

Among the other findings:

  • 33.6% of associates responded that they “frequently” or “very frequently” start their research using Google whereas 84.5% of law firm librarian observers responded that associates “frequently” or “very frequently” begin their research using Google;
  • 48% of associates note they use “terms and connectors” searching “very frequently” whereas 18.6% of law firm librarian observers responded that associates “very frequently” use “terms and connectors” searching;
  • Only 4.8% of associates indicated they never use print materials;
  • 34.1% of associates indicate they “frequently” use “free Internet” resources;
  • 5.6% of associates indicated using law reviews “frequently” but 61.1% noted they “rarely” or “never” use law reviews;
  • 7.8 of associates indicating they can “develop an effective research plan” “very well” whereas 0% of law firm librarian observers indicated associates could “develop an effective research plan” “very well”;
  • 27.4% of associates responded they could research case law “very well” but only 9.2% of law firm librarians noted associates could do this “very well”;
  • 0% of law firm librarian observers noted that associates could perform cost-effective legal research “very well” while 7.1% of associates thought they could do this “very well”; and
  • No law firm librarian observer remarked that associates could use Lexis or Westlaw “very well.”

Read the full Task Force Report here.

Hat tip to Professor Eric Young.


July 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Google: Big Time D.C. Lobbyist?

From Public Citizen:

Monday’s opening of Google’s new Capitol Hill office, a 55,000 square-foot space less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol, symbolizes the company’s growing political activity and nontransparent expenditures, Public Citizen said today. Google did not respond to two phone messages and an email inquiry from Public Citizen about the purpose of this office, but multiple media reports have interpreted it to be used for lobbying and political activity purposes.

Google has been the No. 2 company in lobbying spending two of the past three years, and was No. 5 last year – making it the most active lobbying company in the tech industry. At the same time, its political spending transparency lags behind the openness of other tech companies.

You can read more here.


July 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 30, 2014

A partner's advice to law students on how to get the most out of your summer clerkship.

Gavin Villareal, a litigation partner with Baker Botts, provides some tips to summer associates via this column in the Texas Lawyer magazine on how to get the most out of your summer clerkship.  You can check out the full article here but in the meantime here's a list of Mr. Villareal's main pointers:

Getting the Most From Your Summer Clerkship

      • Make the most of mentors.
      • Obsess over written work.
      • Demand substantive feedback.
      • Attend social events.
      • Talk to the staff.

 Continue reading here.


June 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas A&M Seeking Legal Writing Prof

TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW seeks to expand its academic program and its strong commitment to scholarship by hiring two exceptional faculty candidates for tenure-track or tenured positions, with rank dependent on qualifications and experience.  While the law school welcomes applications in all subject areas, it particularly invites applications in: (1) patent law (including related intellectual property subjects); and (2) legal analysis, research, and writing.  Candidates must have a J.D. degree or its equivalent.  Preference will be given to those with demonstrated outstanding scholarly achievement and strong classroom teaching skills. 

This is an especially attractive time to join Texas A&M University School of Law.  Since Texas A&M University acquired the law school from Texas Wesleyan University in August of 2013, applications for admission have increased by over 30 percent and development has grown exponentially, including multiple seven-figure endowed chairs.  The law school is poised to build on its tradition of excellence in scholarship, teaching, and public service through the extensive resources and opportunities that result from being part of a world-class public university. 

Texas A&M University School of Law is located in vibrant downtown Fort Worth.  The Fort Worth/Dallas area, with a total population in excess of six million people, offers a low cost of living and a strong economy.

As an Equal Opportunity Employer, Texas A&M University welcomes applications from a broad spectrum of qualified individuals who will enhance the rich diversity of the law school’s academic community. Applicants should email a résumé and cover letter indicating research and teaching interests to Professor Timothy Mulvaney, Chair of the Faculty Appointments Committee, at  Alternatively, résumés can be mailed to Professor Mulvaney at Texas A&M University School of Law, 1515 Commerce Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102-6509.


June 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How To Succeed When You Fail

Recently, I spoke with a very successful entrepreneur who has launched a number of biotech start-up companies. Not all have succeeded. Her observation: When some people fail, they give up and therefore never have successes. Others, however, try to learn from a failure and jump back in the game with new projects. They eventually succeed.

 I suspect that we and many of our students have had failures or will have them, Do we give up and play it safe, just doing our jobs in a pedestrian way, or do we shake off failure and find  the energy to get moving again?



June 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Three Types of Experiential Textbooks

Since the Carnegie Report appeared seven years ago, legal publishers have issued a number of texts on experiential education. These texts fall into three categories: 1) casebooks that include experiential exercises, 2) experiential supplements that can go with any casebook, and 3) freestanding books.

Both Carolina Academic Publishing and West Academic Press have issued casebooks that include experiential exercises. CAP has published the Context and Practice Series, edited by Michael Hunter Schwartz. The books in this series incorporate experiential exercises into a casebook. Most chapters are focused around a single problem, and most chapters include professionalism/professional identity exercises. The editorial comments to the Civil Procedure book in the series declares,

 "Books in the series will feature elements that recent studies of legal pedagogy (Best Practices in Legal Education and the Carnegie Foundation’s Educating Lawyers) recommend as essential to improving law school teaching. First, the books will emphasize heavily the practical application of the legal doctrines addressed in each book. Students will be placed in the roles of practitioners handling simulated cases. They will apply the legal doctrines that they learn in the book in exercises that require them to perform tasks that lawyers actually perform. As the studies mentioned above underscore, teaching in this manner will serve more than one purpose. It will not only better prepare students for practice. It will show students the significance of the material they are learning by demonstrating the reality that they will be using these doctrines. Second, the C & P Series will also accomplish another primary goal of the Best Practices and Educating Lawyers studies. That goal is to engage students in professional identity formation so that, when they begin practicing, they will have a better idea of the kind of lawyers they want to be." The titles in this series range from first-year courses to specialized courses.

West Academic Publishing also has a series that combines a casebook with experiential exercises, the Experiencing Series. The editors describe the series:

"These primary coursebooks cover the doctrine traditionally covered in the classroom while simultaneously offering experiential exercises that will illustrate the concepts of the subject being taught. The books feature the key cases and cover the doctrine in much the same fashion as other standard casebooks. But while building skills of case analysis is critical, it needn’t occupy all of the first year. The books in this series will help support a course that balances traditional case analysis with statutory and rule analysis and experiential education—learning by doing in the presence of an expert teacher."

Three volumes are currently available in the series, Business Organizations, Civil Procedure, and Family Law.

Another excellent text that combines cases with skills is Contracts, an Electronic Text: Cases, Text, and Problems by Charles Calleros & Stephen Gerst, which is an open source casebook. Because it is an ebook, it only costs the students $20.

The second type of experiential text is supplements to existing casebooks. West Academic Publishing has issued such a series, the Developing Professional Skills Series. The editors write,

"Developing Professional Skills books are designed as supplemental texts that can be used to incorporate skills training in legal drafting, client interviewing and counseling, negotiation, advocacy and policy-making into traditional doctrinal courses. The skills exercises in each book are based on fundamental rules and doctrines learned by reading the professor's primary textbook, which makes it possible to incorporate the skills exercises without sacrificing the scope of coverage or assigning additional reading. The exercises may be completed either inside or outside of class in one hour or less. Each exercise requires the student to complete a work product template that may be used for assessment purposes."

Current titles include Constitutional Law, Business Associations, and Civil Procedure with more books appearing shortly.

West Academic Publishing also has the Bridge to Practice Series:

"Titles in the Bridge to Practice Series help students hit the ground running when they graduate. These inexpensive casefile-based supplemental texts contain sets of simulations covering a wide array of issues, giving students the opportunity to learn essential lawyering skills. These simulations put students in roles of counselor, oral advocate, and legal writer. Edited by Mike Vitiello (author of the Criminal Procedure and Civil Procedure titles), these books bring legal doctrine to life."

Among the books in the series are antitrust and civil procedure with more to come soon.

As you can see, West has two series of supplemental texts. The main difference between the two series is that the Bridge to Practice Series follows a single case throughout the book using the case file method, while each chapter in the Developing Professional Skills Series treats a different type of skill with changing facts.

LexisNexis has published a supplemental series, the Skills & Values Series. The books have both a print and on-line component: "The Skills & Values Series is comprised of subject-specific practice-oriented books (the print component) supported by LexisNexis Web Courses (the online component). The Web Courses are powered by Blackboard, . . . a familiar environment to many law professors, and easy to learn for those not familiar. The S&V Series is designed to provide a tool for teaching practice skills so that graduates of our law schools are competent to serve their clients skillfully and in an ethical manner."

The editor continues, "Each print book in the S&V Series contains at least 14 hands-on exercises which together provide a simulated learning environment so that students can actively engage in their learning, and can learn by doing - by practicing the legal concepts they are learning in the course. . . . The online part of each S&V book consists of electronic and interactive materials that are integrally related to the print component and that engage the student. It delivers case file material in a rich media Web Course environment, provides links to relevant statutes, cases and other online resources, and provides a discussion forum (in the form of a wiki) for collaboration among professors who adopt the book in their course."

The series includes a wide-variety of titles.

There are also a number of freestanding books, mainly introduction to law books, that incorporate the latest learning on legal education. Michael Hunter Schwartz has written Expert Learning for Law Students: Second Edition (CAP 2008) with a Workbook, which teaches students how to become better learners based on the latest educational research. In Think Like a Lawyer: Legal Reasoning for Law Students and Business Professionals (ABA Pub. 2013), I wrote an introduction to law book, which is intended to introduce students to legal reasoning and problem solving. Finally, David Thomson has penned a wonderful book on discovery, Skills & Values: Discovery Practice (Lexis/Nexis 2010).

With all these texts now available and more coming, there is no excuse not to include an experiential element in every doctrinal class.

(Scott Fruehwald)

June 29, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The importance of "soft skills" for new lawyers

In this article from the ABA's Law Practice Today online magazine, author Marni Becker-Avin notes that the importance of good "soft skills" cannot be overstated when it comes to the key legal skills new lawyers must develop.  Though law schools have done a reasonably adequate job teaching students "hard skills" like legal research, drafting, oral advocacy, negotiation, etc., Ms. Becker-Avin finds it "astounding" that, for the most part, schools don't even address what she considers a "paramount" skill; the ability to communicate effectively with clients.  As she says, only those associates who learn how to build client relationships through effective communication will advance in their careers. In short, she says it boils down to understanding that the client is always right even when they aren't. 

Developing Lawyers’ “Soft Skills” – a Challenge for the New Era in Legal Services

. . . .

Communication is the top complaint among most state bars. Saying “I became a lawyer to draft contracts, motions, help corporations, and/or go to trial and litigate, but not to hold my client’s hand,” is no longer an acceptable attitude. If 100 percent client retention is the law firm’s goal, and it should be, then the attorneys better learn how to communicate better, and that means in a timely and professional manner. Assuming that firms appreciate when clients pay their bills, and assuming they also appreciate that clients keep the lights on in the building, then they better strive to understand and accept that their clients are entitled to status updates and a return phone call within 24 hours.


A firm that respects client service will stay open. A firm that makes client service a priority will remain successful. How do we accomplish this? It should be innate, and yet, as mentioned, communication is still the number one complaint. Given that so many people have access to and contact with clients in a law firm on a daily basis, we must stop taking “soft skills” for granted, and start placing a higher value on teaching and attaining those skills.


Perhaps lawyers should not have to be taught, but they do have to be taught, that the customer is always right…even when they are not. 

. . . .

Continue reading here.

And you can read some previous posts from this blog about the importance of developing "soft skills" (employers value "soft skills") here, (tips for improving interpersonal skills) here, (tips for developing the "soft skills" that lawyers lack) here and ("soft skills" matter when it comes to finding and keeping a job) here.


June 29, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)