Thursday, January 8, 2015
David Frakt has made one of the strongest attacks yet on the lowering of law school admissions standards on the Faculty Lounge.
"What is truly alarming about the NCBE report is not the declines at top schools, but the massive declines in the 25th percentile at many bottom tier schools, including Charlotte School of Law, Suffolk and Arizona Summit with 7 point drops, Valparaiso, Faulkner, Western New England, New England School of Law and Ave Maria with 6 point drops and Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Whittier, Pace, Capital, Charleston, Florida Coastal, and Dayton all with 5 point drops. The biggest drop in terms of LSAT percentile score between 2010 and 2013 was actually not at Emory, but at Suffolk. Their 25th percentile went from 152 to 145, a drop from 51.6% on the LSAT to 26.7%, a 24.9% decline. And the most alarming drops were at Charlotte School of Law, Arizona Summit, Florida Coastal, Valparaiso and Ave Maria, all of which dropped their bottom 25th percentile LSAT to 141 in 2013 or 15.8% on the LSAT. (Texas Southern and Thomas Cooley were also at 141 in 2013 but didn’t have to drop as far to get there.) Dishonorable mention goes to Faulkner University with a 25th percentile at 142 or 18.1%.
Looking at the recently released ABA Standard 509 reports for 2014, several of these bottom-feeding schools have continued to lower their standards into the abyss. Suffolk, for example, continued their downward spiral and came in at 143, joining Texas Southern and Thomas Cooley, who both rebounded somewhat this year to 143, up two points. Faulkner held the line at 142 this year, while Valparaiso held steady at 141. But other schools that could ill afford to lower their standards any further, did so anyway. The 2014 25th percentile Hall of Shame: tied for third place, Arizona Summit and Florida Coastal School of Law, down one point to 140 (13.4%); in second place, Ave Maria, down two points to 139 (11.6%); and our Grand Prize Winner (drum roll please) - Charlotte School of Law, down 3 points at 138, cracking the vaunted 10th percentile barrier at 9.7%!
And the really scary thing? 24% of students at these schools may be even lower."
Frakt's criticism are particularly relevent in light of the remarks made by Dean Daniel Rodriguez to the AALS House of Representatives last weekend (here):
“At the risk of coming across as insufficiently sensitive, let me say this: No law school has a right to a certain size entering class or a class of a certain level of credentials. The idea that a law school is struggling because it cannot maintain a size adequate to assure that the fixed costs of its faculty, its infrastructure, its financial contribution to the central campus is essentially a non sequitur. The law school’s structure can only be a function of how many qualified students can be persuaded to apply and to enroll. The turbulence in law school enrollment will no doubt continue and, although this will present real challenges to particular member schools as they manage their budgets, it is not the predicament which should and must occupy our attention. That predicament – the one worthy of our attention – is whether and to what extent law schools are serving the fundamental aim of providing high quality education to law students who have the requisite skills to be in our nation’s law schools and who, with the benefit of this high quality education, will be able to serve clients and do justice as new lawyers. . . . the question is how best to assure that the architecture of American legal education is meeting the needs of a diverse, demanding public and of a profession in flux.”
The law school crisis has existed for several years. I think that many were hoping that it would go away as the economy improved. However, the economy has improved, and the law school crisis remains. It is clear that law schools must act now in response to the crisis. Not only is this important for the future of law schools, it is vital for the public that depends on well-educated lawyers.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
According to the LSAC website, the number of LSAT test-takers was up .8% from last December's administration of the test - 28,858 this year compared to 28,363 in December 2014. Overall, the number of LSATs administered during the past year is down 6.2% from the previous year.
Here is an example of framing that should work very well in a class discussion. It comes from an presentation by Kenneth Suggs in a CLE for the American Association for Justice:
Imagine we anticipate the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to combat the disease are proposed. The consequences of the two programs are:
1. If Program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved.
2. If Program B is adopted, there is a 1/3 probability that 600 people will be saved, and a 2/3 probability that no people will be saved.
Subjects are then asked to choose between the two programs. Given this scenario, 72% of respondents chose Program A, saving 200 people for sure. The question is then posed with a different frame.
1. If Program C is adopted, 400 people will die.
2. If Program D is adopted, there is a 1/3 probability that nobody will die and 2/3 probability that 600 people will die.
Obviously, A and B produce the same result as C and D. Yet, with the question framed this way, 78% of respondents chose Program D.
Academics tend to think of the framing bias as relating to risk acceptance or avoidance. In the example above, people vote for Program A because it has a certainty of saving life (and because it requires them to do no math). In comparing Programs C and D, however, the respondents are willing to take the extra trouble to think about the fractions in Program D because they are averse to choosing death.
You can find the full discussion here at Westlaw.
From Progressive Law Practice:
- As early as 2016, all U.S. Supreme Court filings—from petitions to motion responses to merit briefs—will be accessible for free on the Court’s website. So reports The New York Times.
For copy of briefs submitted to the Court, the Court’s website currently directs users to a site maintained by the American Bar Association. Electronic copies of other materials, including the more than 7,000 petitions seeking review filed each year, are even harder to find.
Who knows? Next, the Justices might permit videos of the proceedings.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
If you're thinking about an LLM this year, the online ABA Student Lawyer Magazine has posted a comprehensive list from A (for Admiralty Law) to U (for Urban Affairs) including links to each school's website where you can get additional info. Check it out here.
AALS President Daniel B. Rodriguez addressed the AALS House of Representatives a few days ago. (here)
A few excerpts:
"Let me first say just a word about this annual meeting and the theme. Looking over the program, I am struck by the ways in which legal educators are looking at old issues in creative new ways and at new issues with similar imagination and passion. In a presidential panel this morning, we gathered to talk about 'implementing innovation in law schools' and we heard some really ingenious strategies for improvement and perhaps even more significantly reflected on the opportunities and challenges to implementing change in our schools. The programs over the course of the remainder of this meeting are likewise valuable and give our community a sense that things are well in American legal education and great energy can be and is channeled to make constructive progress and to provide ever new ways of seeing our complex world."
“But what I really want to reflect upon for just a few minutes is what I have observed and learned through this action-packed year, a year that has taken me to a large number of member schools and, in addition, engagement and dialogue with deans and professors at many other schools.”
"First, the pace of real innovation is ever growing. A number of law schools have encountered this period of substantial challenge in enrollment and post-graduate placement with diligent attention, with acceptance of the imperative of change, and with resolve to respond constructively in their academic choices. New courses and curricular initiatives, yes indeed. But more far-reaching reforms are well in the works. At more than a few member schools, deans have reconfigured their clinical programs to emphasize a more comprehensive approach to new lawyer training through, for example, incubator programs and, in some cases, law school embedded law firms. Corporate labs and entrepreneurship programs have become vehicles by which law schools have joined legal training with foundational business skills – this in an era in which the intersection of law and business is increasingly important. Design thinking has found its way into law school pedagogy and, with it, the shrewd metaphor of the T-shaped lawyer, she who has deep legal skills, but also the ability to collaborate across many disciplines. Public interest remains squarely in the canon of law school curricula – and I should pause to note this remarkable fact, given the temptation to deemphasize public interest in an era in which post- graduate employment is challenging to say the least and in which student debt is ubiquitous. Member law schools are making more sophisticated use of adjunct faculty and, as well, residential faculty who come to the law school with valuable experience in legal practice. To be sure, ABA and AALS regulations regarding faculty governance and tenure present challenges to this creativity but, as witnessed by various innovations in staffing models, these regulations have not proved to be serious obstacles to ingenuity, but, instead, a broad structure to think about employment models which serve well the aims of student learning and academic freedom."
“Moreover, imaginative revisions of the law school’s essential structure are underway.”
“Technology looms large as both an external source of pressure and as a focal point for law school innovation.”
“I should pause here to express at least a bit of dismay about how law schools are still portrayed in the media. . . . Yes, the evidence is clear that law schools have struggled to meet their enrollment targets and to maintain the quality of their entering classes. But, in the main, this is not an existential threat, and not a predicament worth major public attention. At the risk of coming across as insufficiently sensitive, let me say this: No law school has a right to a certain size entering class or a class of a certain level of credentials. The idea that a law school is struggling because it cannot maintain a size adequate to assure that the fixed costs of its faculty, its infrastructure, its financial contribution to the central campus is essentially a non sequitur. The law school’s structure can only be a function of how many qualified students can be persuaded to apply and to enroll.”
“Rather, the question is how best to assure that the architecture of American legal education is meeting the needs of a diverse, demanding public and of a profession in flux.”
"Our member schools are taking significant steps to alleviate the debt burdens of our students. Tuition increases appear to be slowing; and, more to the point, the discount rate of law school tuition is increasing and, in some instances, skyrocketing."
“In short, law schools are working hard at controlling costs and this is beginning to have a salutary effect.”
"Of the many concerns, I want to highlight two:
First, there are tough choices facing our member schools who are under economic stress and strain. One choice is whether and to what extent to invest in faculty development and well-being. We discuss in many venues the conspicuous issue of law school staffing – whether, for example, there will a turn away from tenured faculty to others with less job security. But looming alongside these hot-button issues are the seemingly more mundane issues of faculty well-being. Will law schools continue to be able to support faculty research and travel? Will law faculty be assisted in their teaching work through, for example, use of technology? Law faculty are the principal assets in the educational structure of law schools and they are at risk when law schools face economic pressure."
"The second concern I want to mention is one that has emerged with verge in the past year. While we are hard at work in our law schools at reforming and reshaping our programs in order to accomplish meaningful innovation and safeguard our core values, a number of external stakeholders have undertaken to add state-specific graduation requirements on law schools. The adoption of New York’s mandatory pro bono requirement – a requirement imposed, remarkably, on law students, but not practicing lawyers and without the breadth and depth of input that befits such a major change – proved to be the opening salvo in a movement to impose new regulation on law schools. California has nearly dropped the other shoe, with the imposition of significant new curricular mandates on law students who would sit for that state’s bar. Just taken in isolation, the new requirements in these two large states represent a real impact, and not a particularly positive one, on law schools whose graduates would look to practice in these states."
“So, as I look back at this year of change, I am heartened, but also worried.”
P.S. While I agree with most of what Dean Rodriguez has said, I cannot agree with his criticism of the new experiential requirements the California Bar is enacting. I heard former California Bar President, Jon Streeter, speak about the new requirements at the ETL 2013 conference, and I have carefully studied the documents the California Bar has posted on the Internet concerning these changes. I believe that the new requirements are well-thought out and that they will significantly improve legal practice in California. Sometimes, law schools need a little push by an external source.
Last month we reported that former Supreme Court justice Joan Orie Melvin had completed the term of her sentence for corruption by writing letters of apology to judges and staff. We spoke too soon.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus did not find the letters brought the case to a conclusion, criticizing them as “generic” and “unsatisfactory.” He reinstated Melvin’s house arrest and ordered her to write new letters, personalized to each of 600 jurists and staff. Melvin will be confined to her 3,650 square foot home in Marshall, except for church services. At least it isn’t an apartment.
"The four-day annual meeting wrapped up on Monday. Attendance was down by about 15 percent from last year, and the agenda was a bit more austere than in years past, with fewer law school receptions and no offsite gala."
"But the atmosphere was hardly one of doom and gloom. Plenty of speakers acknowledged legal education’s challenges, including falling enrollment, higher costs and fewer traditional law jobs. But AALS leaders highlighted efforts by law schools to meet those challenges by offering more practical skills training, interdisciplinary courses, degree options and business and leadership skills."
“'These are exciting times in American legal education,' said incoming AALS president Blake Morant, dean of George Washington University Law School. 'We see legal education evolving.'”
Monday, January 5, 2015
This week I will discuss the ways in which entrepreneurship can play a role in legal career, as well as how a J.D. can benefit law school students whose primary career objective is entrepreneurship, not practicing law.
There are many ways to practice law, and not all of them involve entrepreneurship in a traditional sense. In today’s world, however, some degree of entrepreneurship or entrepreneurial thinking is needed to be successful at all levels and in all professions. However, two types of legal careers benefit particularly from an entrepreneurial perspective.
The first of these careers is that of the solo practitioner. For the most part, the days of "hanging out a shingle" – opening up a solo law practice after graduating from law school and being admitted to a state bar – are long past. Those who start their own firms now tend to gain experience and expertise in a larger, established organization before striking out on their own.
Lawyers who do open up their own legal practices will soon realize that such law offices are essentially small businesses selling the product of legal advice and representation. Creating a successful law firm, whether as a solo practitioner or with other attorneys, will present issues that all businesses face, such as advertising and marketing, managing a staff and budgeting. An entrepreneurial spirit is very important in successfully managing the non-legal aspects of running a law office.
The second career is that of the attorney working in a for-profit legal office.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
With the growing legalization of marijuana comes . . . new law school classes concerning marijuana.Taking the lead are Vanderbilt, the University of Denver, and Santa Clara. All in the name of relevancy. You can read more here, from the Wall Street Journal.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
The Wall Street Journal has published an article on a very successful experiential program at UNH. Law-School Program Emphasizes Practical Skills by Joe Palazzolo.
"In recent years, as more clients have refused to pay for young lawyers to learn on the job, many law schools have tinkered with their curricula, making courses more practical and less theoretical as graduates compete for fewer openings."
"Most of these efforts are too new to assess. But a study to be released this month suggests that the University of New Hampshire’s Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, launched in 2005, has largely succeeded in turning out new lawyers who are ready to practice law when they graduate."
"The study, led by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, found that students in the program outperformed lawyers who had been admitted to practice within the past two years."
"Students who are admitted to the school’s Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program begin their training in the second year of law school. About 120 scholars have graduated from the program since 2008, said John Garvey, the program’s director. . ."
Students "learned how to do the things litigators do: interview clients, take depositions and draft motions and interrogatories."
"Students learn skills in pretrial advocacy, trial advocacy and dispute resolution, and they take a capstone course on client interviews that ends with a standardized assessment. The clients are played by actors, one of whom is Mr. Garvey’s brother-in-law, a retired Broadway performer."
"The program contrasts sharply with the traditional lecture format and focus on doctrinal education at many law schools. Daniel Webster scholars are given frequent feedback and asked to reflect on their performance at nearly every step. They make mistakes in a controlled setting, learn from them and push forward, Mr. Garvey said."
"The study compared the standardized client-interview assessments of 123 lawyers who didn’t graduate from the program with the assessments of 69 of the honors students. Daniel Webster scholars scored an average of 3.76 out of 5, compared with an average of 3.11 for the lawyers. 'This difference is large and statistically significant,' wrote co-authors Alli Gerkman and Elena Harman."
I heard Professor Garvey speak at the 2013 ETL Conference. His program is an excellent alternative to the traditional approach to law school teaching, and it serves as an alternative to the New Hampshire bar exam. (here) I am happy to see that a thorough study has supported its success.
When Mr. Ambrogi speaks, lawyers and legal skills profs should listen. From his always informative Law Sites blog:
- Legal research “rebels” join the establishment.
- ‘Legal Hacking’ is no longer an oxymoron.
- Encryption becomes essential. (And backup is even more important. Just check this out! – jbl).
- Businesses and technology are changing the nature of law practice.
- Docket searching is the new black.
- Human + Machine > Human
- Your father’s legal directory is dead.
- Practice management goes wide.
- Innovation and disruption become the norm.
- The justice gap becomes a primary driver of innovation
Read the full description of each of these key development here.
Being Your Authentic Self in Class
As a professor, how much distance should you keep from your students? Should you disclose personal details (within reason, of course), or keep to the course content, narrowly defined?
I have found it more effective and fulfilling to let my students know something about me and to develop a real rapport with them. At Vitae, Professor David Gooblar agrees:
It sounds strange when I admit it, but talking about myself in class plays an important role in my pedagogy. I can understand those who are uncomfortable doing that. Many instructors worry about opening up too much, about compromising their authority in front of students who may be hesitant to grant it. That can be a particularly vexing issue for women and people of color. Dealing with students who don’t respect you is maddening, and opening yourself up to that prospect by deviating from the role of the impersonal instructor can feel like a risk. There’s also, I know, a lot of content to cover. It may seem like there’s simply not enough time to open up too much. But I think if done wisely, talking about yourself can be a real boon to your teaching, a weapon in your rhetorical arsenal that can actually increase your authority.
You can read more here.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
UConn Law creates two new programs to provide advanced, specialized skills in human rights and environmental law
UConn Law has announced the launch of two speciality LLM degree programs in human rights and energy & environmental law which Dean Timothy Fisher says are intended to provide law grads with the specialized skills to work in fields that he expects to be "in high demand" in the coming years. Here's an excerpt describing both programs, which the school plans to offer next fall provided the ABA gives its OK this spring.
UConn’s School of Law has created two new master’s degree programs, one in human rights and social justice and the other in energy and environmental law, as part of an ongoing commitment to meet society’s changing needs.
The new graduate degrees allow students who already have their first law degree to specialize further in these emerging and exciting fields of law. UConn Law is the only law school in New England to offer such degrees.
At a time when debates over environmental challenges as well as international and domestic civil rights are as significant as they are complex, the new programs will “focus on training the lawyers of tomorrow, cementing our position as a national law school with top-ranked scholars, and contributing to the economic growth of our region and the social health of our communities,” says Timothy Fisher, dean of the UConn School of Law.
The new programs are also the latest manifestation of the law school’s new academic plan, which identifies international and domestic human rights, and energy and environmental law as two specialties in the coming years “that will likely be in high demand.”
With an export economy deeply connected to global markets, Connecticut lawyers increasingly must comprehend the international legal framework within which their clients are engaged. In addition, growing numbers of UConn law graduates practice in areas directly influenced by the business, policy, and legal aspects of energy and environmental law.
The degree programs are designed to help students seeking to specialize and acquire advanced skills to effectively address complex issues in these growing fields of legal practice, Fisher says. They also will help solidify the law school’s national reputation on issues at the intersection of human and civil rights and the practice of energy and environmental law.
Expanding the school’s offering in human rights and social justice will build on the success of its Certificate in Human Rights, which has graduated 36 students over the past five years, and will create a novel program that integrates international human rights expertise with existing academic strength in the practice of domestic civil rights and social justice.
. . . .
You can continue reading at the UConn website here.
Hat tip to the JD Journal.
When should you take on a conflict and when should you just let it go? From the ABA Journal online:
Experts tell the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) that avoiding the fight may be best in these situations: You don’t have a solution to the problem, the issue isn’t important to your employer or your ability to do your job, the issue is outside your purview, or you are battling a person who has a lot more power than you.
If the problem is worth the confrontation, experts offer these suggestions: Plan how you will discuss the problem, keep your emotions in check, figure out how to deal with complaints about your role in the problem, and make sure the person you speak with has the power to change things.
However, in my experience most people tend to avoid a conflict even when they should stand up for their position. Although the experts’ advice is sound, I think most people don’t necessarily step up when they can make a difference.
Friday, January 2, 2015
Knowing how to use books is still one of them according to a new article by Professor Patrick Meyer, Director of the Law Library at Detroit Mercy School of Law. The article, called Law Firm Legal Research Requirements and the Legal Academy Beyond Carnegie, is available at 35 Whittier L. Rev. 419 (2014). From the introduction:
According to quantitative research conducted by Thomson West (now Thomson Reuters), new associate attorneys can expect to spend 45% of their time conducting research. Yet despite this high percentage, criticism of the research abilities of new associates persists. Two seminal reports published in 2007, the Carnegie Report and Best Practices, concluded that law schools should better focus on preparing students for law practice. This applies to legal research, which takes up so much of one's practice time.
There have been a handful of important recent studies on practice skills that post-date the Carnegie Report, and they are reviewed in this article. All of these studies support a stronger emphasis on legal research training in law schools, and all but one either suggest, or directly call for, an integrated approach where some tasks are taught in both the online and print formats. All but one of these studies surveyed practicing attorneys. The study most critical of new hire research abilities is a survey of law firm librarians. All of these studies show that legal academia must devote more time to teaching legal research, and all but one support my conclusions: that attorneys still use books to conduct research, book usage occurs much more than most people think, and law schools need to teach both online and print-based research for some tasks.
New attorneys frequently lack basic knowledge of how to use research resources, yet this knowledge is the link between legal research and legal analysis. Consequently, it is important to teach students basic usage before moving to more difficult material. This is time well spent since 45% of a new associate's time is spent conducting research. As Best Practices states, “[i]t may not be possible to prepare students fully for the practice of law in three years, but law schools can come much closer than they are doing.” In short, law schools can do a better job at teaching legal research.
Part II of this article begins with a brief review of the history of legal research deficiencies in the law firm setting and progresses to a summary of several new studies on law firm research practices and abilities. Part II continues by summarizing the results of my 2010 law firm librarian survey, with some comparisons to my 2007 survey in order to detect patterns of research changes amongst one group over the past few years. Part II concludes with a discussion of which sources should be taught in an integrated manner according to my law firm librarian survey. In Part III, I propose a three-part plan to remedy the lack of research acumen amongst new attorneys. First, law schools must assure that all students receive an appropriate amount of basic research instruction in the first year curriculum, to include some print-based research instruction. Second, Advanced Legal Research must be a required course. Finally, I would like to renew the call to include a research component on each state's bar exam.
From JD Journal:
According to the American Bar Association, law school enrollment is at a record low—the lowest in nearly three decades.
Law school enrollment has been steadily declining, and that trend continued this fall. According to the American Bar Association, enrollment dropped close to 7 percent from 2013. The New York Times reports that enrollment has declined 17.5 percent from 2010, during which record-breaking enrollment was reported. Enrollment is at the lowest point since 1987—a time during which there were far fewer law schools.
For the fall semester, 204 law schools that are accredited by the bar association reported 37,924 full- and part-time students had enrolled for their first year of law school. This is a decline of 1,751 students, roughly 4.4 percent, since 2013.
Four years ago, law school enrollment peaked at 52,488 first-year students. This year’s numbers reflect a decline of 27.7 percent since that time. In 2010, the recession had taken its toll and many signed up for law school to obtain professional degrees in hopes of securing job and financial stability.
You can read more here.
As I’ve said before, for law schools to survive and thrive, they must do more than compete for the same group of potential students. They must develop new “client bases”—that is, offer education and professional credentials to individuals who don’t want or need a law degree. Examples: people in the corporate world, people in education administration, people in high school and college sports administration, journalists.
Thursday, January 1, 2015
Now that 2015 is here, it is time to look back at the most important legal education articles of 2014.
Reaching Backward and Stretching Forward: Teaching for Transfer in Law School Clinics by Shaun Archer, James Parry Eyster, James J. Kelly, Jr., Tonya Kowalski, and Colleen F. Shanahan.
A Law School Game Changer: (Trans)formative Feedback by Elizabeth Bloom.
Reflective Practice in Legal Education: The Stages of Reflection by Timothy Casey.
Legal Education Reform Bibliography Gould Law Library.
Understanding the Costs of Experiential Legal Education by Martin Katz.
Defining Experiential Legal Education by David Thomson.
What’s Your Problem? by Kathleen Vinson. (my favorite article of the year)
Achieving the American Bar Association's Pedagogy Mandate: Empowerment in the Midst of a Perfect Storm by Cara Cunningham Warren.
According to the Business Writing Blog authored by writing teacher and expert Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. Lynn works with lots of managers and employees at all levels throughout the globe and has listed the three most common errors she observed in their writing over the past year. Check out the Business Writing Blog for some very helpful examples of mistakes to avoid and advice for getting it right. For now here is the short version.
- The most common error is failure to use a comma to set off the conversational use of the recipient's name in a sentence.
- Making correct use of commas and semi-colons when using adverbs like "however" to connect two independent clauses.
- Mistakes in subject-verb agreement with respect to correctly matching plural subjects with plural verbs.
Go here to see the rest of examples.
My colleague Rufus King, has written a brief article in the U.S. News 2015 Legal Issue, entitled, “Lawyers as Entrepreneurs?” As Director of our Center for Law, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation, and a veteran practitioner, he encourages lawyers to look at the opportunities to better serve their clients (and survive) by launching new start-up firms, experimenting with alternative fee arrangements, and building innovative businesses. This is the future for our students.
You can read the article here. (Click on the article to increase the font size.)