Saturday, October 31, 2015

Don't forget to "fall back" tonight - Daylight Saving Time is ending

Daylight Saving Time will end on Sunday, November 1, at 2:00 a.m. Don't forget to set your clocks accordingly before bedtime tonight.  A PSA from your friendly neighborhood Legal Skills Prof Blog.


October 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Active Shooter Training: What are Colleges and Universities Doing?

In the wake of so many tragic shootings on college campuses, a survey by the Associated Press finds that many institutions of higher learning are taking steps to prevent violence. A question remains: How effective are these efforts?

From the Portland Press Herald:

The AP review found that most schools have set up sophisticated alert systems that use text messages, social media or technology that can remotely take over computers tied to campus servers. Many also have added armed officers, conducted drills with law enforcement authorities and created threat-assessment teams that try to determine whether an overheard remark or violence-tinged essay is a genuine danger sign.

.  .  .

But in general, educating students and employees about what to do in the event of an attack has proved something of a stumbling block. While most schools have created posters, brochures and online guides, some of them have yet to figure out how to get people to read, much less absorb, the material.

You can read more here.  At my university, the administration plans to have about three trained, armed security officers on duty in any given shift (in addition to unarmed officers). The move is generating controversy.


October 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekend Fun: Last minute Halloween costume ideas on the cheap

Many of these suggestions from the NYT don't cost a thing and can be pulled together last minute such as "calm before the storm," "going out on a limb" or perhaps you fancy "waiting for the other shoe to drop." On second thought, these seem more like small performance art pieces than actual "costumes." Either way, they're certainly clever.

This Halloween, Be the Talk of the Party

Everyone knows that a brilliant conceptual costume will make you the star of the Halloween party. But with each passing year, it becomes harder to stand out. If you really want other partygoers to be surprised and delighted when you reveal “what you are,” these overlooked costumes are sure to be a hit.


. . . . 


The Calm Before the Storm

Spend most of party relaxing on couch. As things are winding down, run wildly through room, smashing everything in sight. Announce that, while your costume is now, technically, over, you had previously been “the calm before the storm.”


Going Out on a Limb

Arrive at party, then immediately leave and spend rest of evening sitting on a branch in the backyard.


Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Remove shoes. Tape one to ceiling insecurely so that it falls right away. Tape second shoe to ceiling more securely and spend entire party staring at it with hopeful expression.

Check out the full list of last minute ideas here.


October 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Consequences on Permitting Advertising in Judicial Elections

Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, The Constitution forbids banning ads for judges in election campaigns. In Pennsylvania, judges are elected, even candidates for the state supreme court. This year, voters pick three new PA Supreme Court justices. And the political ads are disgraceful. They often are untrue or seriously misleading. Here is just one example. Groups at all points on the political spectrum are responsible for them.

One solution is to appoint judges instead of electing them. However, political forces in the state stand in the way.


October 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Here is “Night on Bald Mountain with the Disney video from Fantasia, though with a different orchestra.

And for the faint of heart, here are Donald Duck and his mischievous nephews celebrating the holiday.


October 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

October administration of LSAT shows 7.4% increase in test-takers from last year

Hat tip to the Faculty Lounge for this one. You can click here to see the LSAC's chart showing that 33,229 test-takers sat for the October 3, 2015 administration of the LSAT compared to 30,943 who took it at that time last year. That translates into a 7.4% increase which certainly suggests we will likely see an increase in law school applications next year. As the Faculty Lounge points out, this is the fourth straight administration of the LSAT that resulted in an increase in test-takers from the year before.


October 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Personality Test with Scientific Backing

The Science Explorer offers a test that thousands of people have taken. Click here and you get the choice of two versions, one taking 10-20 minutes and one taking 30-40 minutes. The tests measure:

extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. Each spectrum in turn has six subcategories, resulting in a much more comprehensive and nuanced portrait of the human personality. The Personality and Social Dynamics Lab at the University of Oregon offers a full breakdown of the five dimensions.

For what it’s worth.


October 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Paul Lippe Praises Denver Law for Innovation

"While many law schools and law firms are successfully grappling with change, others are not. To better understand the what, why and whether of leading an institution forward, let’s look at Denver University’s Sturm College of Law as part of our series exploring Prudent Innovation."

Read the rest of the article here.

(Scott Fruehwald)

Earlier articles by Paul Lippe:

October 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rankings of Masters in Economics Programs

Here, we depart from the many rankings of law schools. Each year, the TFE Times provides these rankings of Masters in Economic programs. Apparently, theses rankings are highly regarded.  Here are the top ten:


New York University



University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Applied Economics


University of Wisconsin - Madison



Johns Hopkins University

Applied Economics


University of Maryland College Park

Applied Economics


University of California - San Diego



Duke   University



Boston   University



University of Texas Austin



Washington University in St. Louis


You can access the remaining rankings here.


October 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Bar Association's Task Force of Experiential Learning seeks public comment on proposal scheduled to take effect next year

The task force's full statement is below explaining how it recommendation that New York adopt an experiential learning requirement for admission to the bar how it proposes that requirement could be met (see previous stories here, here and here). If adopted, this new requirement will go into effect beginning with next August's entering law school class. The task force is soliciting public comments on its proposal and recommendation which are due November 9 so don't dawdle. Here's the full statement:


In Spring 2015, in response to a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on the Uniform Bar Exam, the Court of Appeals appointed a Task Force on Experiential Learning and Admission to the Bar to consider "whether New York's admission requirements should be amended to include, among other things, an experiential learning component, or whether it is appropriate to include as a licensing requirement an assessment of applicants' lawyering skills and understanding of the practical aspects of a legal career." Advisory Committee on the Uniform Bar Examination, Ensuring Standards and Increasing Opportunity for the Next Generation of New York Attorneys 70-71 (April2015).


Throughout the summer and fall, the Task Force, chaired by Hon. Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals, met on several occasions to discuss whether New York should adopt a skills competency requirement for admission. After extensive deliberation and consideration of the relevant issues, the Task Force proposes that New York adopt a new mechanism for ensuring that all applicants for admission to the bar possess the requisite skills and are familiar with the professional values for effective, ethical and responsible practice. In light of New York's diverse applicant pool, and in an effort to accommodate the varying educational backgrounds of applicants, the Task Force suggests five separate paths by which applicants for admission can demonstrate that they have satisfied the skills competency requirement.


Pathway 1 would allow an applicant to satisfy the skills competency requirement by submitting a certification from the applicant's law school confining that (1) the Jaw school has developed a plan identifying and incorporating into its curriculum the skills and professional values that, in the school's judgment, are required for its graduates' basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession, as required by American Bar Association Standards and Rules of Procedure for the Approval of Law Schools Standard 302(b), (c) and (d), and has made this plan publicly available on the law school's website; and (2) the applicant has acquired sufficient competency in those skills and sufficient familiarity with those values. This pathway recognizes that law schools should be permitted the freedom to identify and articulate the skills and professional values, as well as the ways in which the schools will measure their students' attainment of these skills and understanding of these values.


Pathway 2 would permit an applicant to satisfy the skills competency requirement by submitting proof from the law school that the student completed 15 credits of practice-based 1 experiential coursework designed to foster professional competency training. Acknowledging that law-related work experiences can provide extremely worthwhile educational opportunities, pathway two allows a law school to substitute up to 6 of the 15 credits for law school certified non-credit bearing summer employment programs, provided those programs meet certain criteria. At least 50 hours of full-time employment is required for each substituted credit. This pathway is similar to a skills competency requirement proposed in California and pending before that state's Supreme Court.


Pathway 3 provides that any applicant who has successfully completed the Pro Bono Scholars program will be deemed to have satisfied the skills competency requirement.


Pathways 4 and 5 were designed by the Task Force for applicants who may not have had plentiful opportunities for skills training during their law study.


Pathway 4 allows applicants to complete a post-graduation six-month apprenticeship in the United States, commonwealth, territory or a foreign country, under the supervision of an attorney admitted to practice and in good standing in the jurisdiction where the work is performed. The apprenticeship can be paid or unpaid. The supervising attorney is responsible for ( 1) certifying the beginning and ending dates of the apprenticeship; (2) providing the applicant with an initial orientation session; (3) implementing a system for assignment that assures that the applicant is actually engaged in the performance of legal work, including a diversity of tasks, as part of the ongoing practical work of the law office during normal business hours and throughout the required period; (4) providing the applicant with experience and guidance in the skills and values required for basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession; (5) giving timely oral and written feedback to the applicant; ( 6) engaging the applicant in reflection on his/her experiences and learning during the apprenticeship; and (7) certifying that the applicant has satisfactorily completed the apprenticeship.


Pathway 5 provides that an applicant who has been authorized to practice law in another state, territory, country or commonwealth outside the United States and has been in good standing and practiced in that jurisdiction full time for one year, or part time for two years, will meet the skills competency requirement.


The Task Force determined that this proposed skills competency requirement should apply to all new applicants for admission to the bar, whether educated in the United States or abroad. In order to provide applicants and law schools sufficient time to adapt to this new requirement, the Task Force recommends that it first be applied to those who commence their law study -either domestic or foreign- after August 1, 2016. The skills competency requirement would not apply to applicants for admission on motion (22 NYCRR 520.1 0), applicants who qualify for the bar exam under the law office study program (22 NYCRR 520.4), or applicants who sit for the exam based on graduation from an unapproved law school and five years of practice (22 NYCRR 520.5).


Persons or organizations wishing to comment on this proposal should e-mail their submissions to or write to: Margaret Wood, Court Attorney for Professional Matters, Court of Appeals Hall, 20 Eagle Street, Albany, NY 12207. Submissions will be accepted until5 p.m. on November 9, 2015. All public comments will be treated as available for disclosure under the Freedom of Information Law, and are subject to publication by the Office of Court Administration. The issuance of a proposal for public comment should not be interpreted as an endorsement of that proposal by the Court of Appeals.


October 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In Other News: Medical School Applicants, Enrollees Hit All-Time High

Tax Prof Blog

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Firm Uses Video to Advertise its Practice

Law firms get more sophisticated about using the media. The law firm of Epstein, Becker, Green has begun creating short videos to attract clients to its employment law practice. The videos include substantive content on recent legal developments. You can access a video here, about 5 minutes, and read more here.


October 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Bar Exam Disaster

Right after I posted the story below on how admitting law students with lower LSAT scores is causing a drop in bar pass rates, I found the NY Bar results on Above the Law.  The first time pass rate is 70% compared to 74% last year.  This is down from 83.2% in 2008.

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another Negative Story from the NY Times

This story mentions a study by Law School Transparency that shows that many law schools are admitting students who have little chance of passing the bar.


"As law schools across the country try to keep their classrooms full, many are admitting students with lesser qualifications, including those with a lower admissions test score — considered an important predictor of whether a graduate will earn the credentials to practice law."

"About a third of the 204 accredited law schools had entering classes last year with at least 25 percent of the class consisting of “at risk” students, or those with law school admissions test scores of below 150, according to a new study by Law School Transparency, a nonprofit advocacy organization."

"'Too many law schools are filling their entering classes with people who face serious risk of not passing the bar exam,' said Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, which he helped to found six years ago to promote more open law school practices. He said that last year 45 schools, up from eight in 2010, admitted seriously at-risk students."

Law schools cannot keep ignoring this problem.  Just when law school applications have bottomed out, the new publicity may cause more potential students to go elsewhere.  While the article mentions a few law schools who have tried to deal with the problem (Southern Illinois, Denver), all law schools need to face reality.  Ignoring the problem is just making things worse.  For example, while there are many, many opportunities for top students in the legal profession, the number of top students going to law school has dropped off dramatically in the past few years because of the negative publicity.

The bad market has hurt law schools.  Law schools' reactions to the bad market have made this problem much, much worse.

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Survey of law firm leaders finds many believe "Watson-like" AI will replace some associates.

Somewhat related to the recent news that Thomson Reuters is teaming up with IBM's Watson to deliver "cognitive computing services" to clients (which presumably includes law firms), a recent survey by legal consultant Altman Weil found that 35% of law firm leaders believe it may be feasible to replace some associates with Artificial Intelligence within 5 to 10 years. The survey also found that nearly half of those queried believe AI super-computers may be able to replace paralegals within the same time frame. Faith in the power of AI varied according to law firm size with a greater percentage of large law firm leaders believing they will be able to replace associates with technology compared to small law firm leaders (the Altman Weil survey covered law firms ranging from 50 attorneys to those with more than 1,000). You can read the full survey report from Altman Weil here covering a wide range of topics related to current perceptions about the state of the profession while The American Lawyer has a nice summary along with additional commentary here. An excerpt: 

Computer vs. Lawyer? Many Firm Leaders Expect Computers to Win

. . . . 

Junior lawyers are used to feeling like cogs in a machine. According to a new report, a surprising number of law firm leaders expect to be able to replace them with actual machines—and soon.


In a large-scale survey released this month, 35 percent of law firm leaders said they could envision replacing first-year associates with law-focused computer intelligence within the next five to 10 years. That's up from less than a quarter of respondents who gave the same answer in 2011.


The survey, conducted by law firm management consulting firm Altman Weil, included responses from chairs and managing partners at 320 firms with lawyer head counts ranging from 50 to more than 1,000.


More senior associates also wouldn’t be immune to replacement, according to the survey. One in five respondents thought technology could make second- and third-year associates redundant in the next decade.


Nearly half—47 percent—saw computers potentially replacing the paralegal tier.


The larger the firm, the greater the faith in technology—and the weaker the faith in associate indispensability. Fifty percent of heads of firms with 250 or more lawyers envisioned law-focused cognitive technologies replacing their first-years, compared with 30 percent at smaller firms, the survey found. And 30 percent of heads of larger firms said the same might be true for second- and third-years, compared with 15 percent at smaller firms.

. . . . 

Continue reading the AmLaw article here.


October 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Be Careful About Believing Media Narratives of Horrific Incidents

In their article, Jeanne Kaiser and Scott Kaiser Brown recount three high-profile stories of bullying in which the media pilloried the alleged culprits when the true stories might suggest limited guilt or no guilt at all. The incidents involved Phoebe Prince, Tyler Clementi, and Meagan Meiers. When the Story Is Too Good to Be True: A Lawyer's Role in Resisting the Lure of Narrative (here).

 Here is their conclusion:

There is no surprise in this: any social problem is likely to seem more

real and more pressing when presented in human terms as opposed to its

abstract consequences. And there is no doubt that the stories of these

young people have triggered a new and more comprehensive

examination of an important social phenomenon.


But for those who must write the sequels to these stories—the

teachers, administrators, parents, and students themselves who will

control whether bullying as a social phenomenon becomes less

damaging as a result of the individual stories that flashed across the

media—it is important to do a close reading. Contrary to media reports,

there is no rash of predatory students stalking the halls of schools,

seeking victims to drive to suicide. If that were true, it would be easier

to create a tidy ending by simply removing those students from the



But instead, the schools contain a number of confused, searching

and sometimes truly cruel children and young people, navigating their

way into adulthood. Sometimes they victimize their peers along the way

and sometimes they are victimized. Because of the great deal of

pointless distress bullying can cause, it is important to address it in a

systematic way and the legislation recently enacted may well be one way

to do so. But the persons responsible for school children—parents,

teachers, and administrators—are well advised to remember that the

story is complicated, there are few heroes and villains, and every ending

is fraught with ambiguity.



October 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is There a Right Way to Respond to the "Law School Debt Crisis" Editorial?

Professor Bill Henderson has posted a response to the New York Times editorial I mentioned a couple of days ago.  (here)


"Amidst all the other newsworthy topics, the New York Times editorial board made law school debt the lead editorial for today's Sunday edition. And the story line is not good."

"I think it is important for the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) to take some decisive action in the very near future.  In this blog post, I explain where the money comes from to keep the law school doors open and why, as a consequence, we need to pay closer attention to the public image of legal education.  I then offer some unsolicited advice to the AALS leadership."

"What's the solution?

Legal education has a cost problem, but so does the entire higher ed establishment. Here is my unsolicited advice.

The leadership of the AALS needs to take a very strong public position that the trend lines plaguing higher ed need to be reversed.  This is not risky because it is so painfully obvious.  The AALS should then, in conjunction with the ABA, send a very public delegation to the Dept of Education. The delegation should be given a very simple charge:  Help the DOE

  1. Outline the systemic problems that plague higher education 
  2. Articulate the importance of sound policy to the national interest
  3. Formulate a fair and sustainable solution. 

I have faith that my legal colleagues would do a masterful job solving the problems of higher education.  And in the process, we'll discover that we have become the architects of a new system of higher ed finance that will be fair and equitable system for all stakeholders, including those employed in legal education.  That's right: act decisively to ensure a fair and equitable deal.  The only drawback is that it won't be the status quo that we'd instinctively like to preserve."

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Should Students Be Compliant?

Compliance is a common word in the medical profession. Providers of health services want patients who are compliant, that is, the patients follow directives. They take their meds, schedule follow-ups, and modify their life habits. Except, as providers learn, many patients are not compliant. From one perspective, compliance is a parentalistic concept. And parents quickly learn that compliance is an unattainable goal.

A new, competing term is adherence. Though the word also has parentalistic connotations, it aims to describe a relationship in which providers and patients work cooperatively to design realistic goals and behaviors. You can read more here and here.

I have been think about how these concepts apply to law teaching. For example, we might give our students a difficult and time consuming assignment, because it fits our schedule and our notion of what we next should cover in class. We know best. We expect students to comply.

 On the other hand, we may fail to recognize that many of the students may have a difficult assignment in another course at the same time. Preaching to them about the need to engage in time management may offer an unrealistic solution. Or we may fail to recognize that a shorter assignment will satisfy our goals and also increase the chance that the students will complete the assignment in a thoughtful manner. We talk with our students and work out a mutually satisfactory solution. We follow the path of adherence.


October 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A new study finds that college does indeed teach students critical thinking skills.

Perhaps you, like me, have read studies in the past finding that formal education, whether at the high school level or in college, has little to no effect when it comes to imparting critical thinking skills (or what is referred to as "fluid intelligence" by the MIT study). But now a new, large scale meta-study contradicts that earlier research but with an interesting twist. Two U. Minnesota psychology profs have conducted a meta-analysis of 71 independent studies that sought to measure the critical thinking skills of students at various points during their college careers. Interestingly, the Minnesota profs found that the critical thinking skills of college students do indeed increase "substantially" over the course of a "normal" stint in college though curricular reforms aimed at enhancing those very same skills do not yield much incremental improvement. In other words, college seems to already be doing a decent job imparting critical thinking skills and thus it may not be worth the time, effort or resources expended by undergrad educators to improve "domain general" critical thinking skills.

The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Review of Education Research but is available now online here and here. From the abstract:

Educators view critical thinking as an essential skill, yet it remains unclear how effectively it is being taught in college. This meta-analysis synthesizes research on gains in critical thinking skills and attitudinal dispositions over various time frames in college. The results suggest that both critical thinking skills and dispositions improve substantially over a normal college experience. Furthermore, analysis of curriculum-wide efforts to improve critical thinking indicates that they do not necessarily produce incremental longterm gains. We discuss implications for the future of critical thinking in education.


October 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Times Editorial Board: The Law School Debt Crisis

The New York Times Editorial Board has published a stinging indictment of the law school debt crisis. (here)


"If this sounds like a scam, that’s because it is. Florida Coastal, in Jacksonville, is one of six for-profit law schools in the country that have been vacuuming up hordes of young people, charging them outrageously high tuition and, after many of the students fail to become lawyers, sticking taxpayers with the tab for their loan defaults.

Yet for-profit schools are not the only offenders. A majority of American law schools, which have nonprofit status, are increasingly engaging in such behavior, and in the process threatening the future of legal education.

Why? The most significant explanation is also the simplest — free money."

"Perhaps the most galling part of this crisis is the misallocation of resources. Even as law schools are churning out unqualified graduates stuck under hopeless mountains of debt, millions of poor and lower-income Americans remain desperate for quality legal representation. Public defenders around the country rely on minuscule budgets to handle overwhelming caseloads. In many cases, the lawyers are so overworked that they cannot provide constitutionally adequate representation for criminal defendants. Civil legal services that help people with housing, immigration and workplace issues are even more scarce, with hardly any public support.

If fewer federal dollars were streaming into law schools’ coffers and more were directed to fund legal services organizations, the legal profession — and the American legal system as a whole — would be better for it."

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)