April 17, 2013
The Fromm Six
Last month, The National Jurist published an article I wrote that was a tribute to Leonard ("Len") Fromm, Dean of Students at Indiana Law from 1982 to 2012. Len passed away in February. The editors at The National Jurist supplied the official title, which I thought was spot on: "What Every Law Student Needs to Excel as an Attorney: Introducing the Fromm Six." [original PDF] I am republishing the essay here because I want as many people as possible to know the story and contribution of this truly great man. [posted by Bill Henderson]
Introducing the Fromm Six, National Jurist (March 2013).
One of the greatest people in legal education that you have never heard of is a man named Leonard Fromm. Fromm served as Dean of Students at Indiana University Maurer School of Law from 1982 to 2012. On February 2, 2013, Dean Fromm passed away after a relatively short battle with cancer.
I want to discuss an innovation that Dean Fromm contributed to legal education—a contribution that, I predict, will only grow over time. This innovation is a competency model for law students called the Fromm Six. But first, let me supply the essential background.
After several years in counseling and adult education, Dean Fromm joined the law school in 1982 to preside over matters of student affairs. Over the course of three decades he quietly became the heart and soul of the Maurer School of Law. Dean Fromm was typically the first person that new students met during orientation—the law school administrator who completed character and fitness applications for state bar authorities and the voice that called out their names at commencement (with an amazing, booming tenor). During the three years in between, Dean Fromm counseled students through virtually every human problem imaginable. His most difficult work was done in his office with his door closed and all his electronic devices turned off. It was private work that was not likely to produce much fanfare.
During his tenure at Indiana Law, Dean Fromm’s title was expanded to include Alumni Affairs. The change did not expand his duties in any significant way—Len was already working 70 hours a week in a job he loved. Rather, the change reflected the fact that Indiana Law alumni associated (and often credited) Dean Fromm with the deepest and most abiding lessons of law school—overcoming self-doubt; confronting self-destructive behavior; recognizing the importance of relationships; finding the courage to try something again after disappointing failure; or discovering the ability to see the world through the eyes of one’s adversary or opponent.
One of the cumulative benefits of Dean Fromm’s job was the ability to track the full arc of lawyers’ careers, from the tentative awkwardness of the 1L year, to involvement in the school’s extracurricular events and social scene, to coping strategies for students not at the top of their class, and the myriad, unexpected turns in our graduates’ professional careers. During his tenure he interacted with nearly 6,000 students and stayed in contact with a staggering number of them after graduation. Invariably, he saw the connection between law school and a student’s subsequent success and happiness later in life (noting, in his wise way, that professional success and happiness are not necessarily the same thing).
In 2008, I started collaborating with Len on a project to construct a law school competency model. Our first iteration was a list of 23 success factors which we constructed with the help of industrial & organizational (IO) psychologists. Although valid as a matter of social science, the list was too long and complex to gain traction with students. In 2010, the faculty who taught Indiana Law’s 1L Legal Professions class got together and reduced the list of competencies to 15. Once again, we found it was too long and complex to execute in the classroom.
During the summer of 2011, as we were debriefing the challenges of another year in our competency-based 1L Legal Professions course, Dean Fromm said, “I have an idea.” A short time later, he circulated a list of six competencies that were appropriate to 1Ls and foundational to their future growth as professionals. Finally (or At last), we now had a working tool! Moreover, none of the professors teaching the Legal Professions course, including me, wanted to revise a single word—a veritable miracle in legal academia.
Upon reviewing the list I kidded Len that the new IU competency model should be called “The Fromm Six”, which was a play on the famous “Big Five” personality model that forms the bedrock of scientific personality testing. (Len had a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology as well as a law degree.) He just laughed. But the “Fromm Six” had a lot of resonance with the rest of us so the label stuck.
In May 2012, Dean Fromm retired from his position as Dean of Students and Alumni Affairs. At age 70 he was preparing to join us in teaching the 1L Legal Professions course. This was to be in addition to his usual Negotiations class, where he was a master. Instead, within a few weeks of retirement, Len was diagnosed with a virulent cancer that never let go.
None of us can make sense of Len’s death as it abruptly ended
a life of complete, unselfish service to a large community of students, faculty
and graduates. But, as best I can, I am
inclined to pay tribute to his life. And
to my mind, there is no greater tribute than to publish and publicize the Fromm
Six so that another generation of lawyers can benefit from his wisdom, grace and
Self-Awareness – Having a highly developed sense of self. Being self‐aware means knowing your values, goals, likes, dislikes, needs, drives, strengths and weaknesses, and their effect on your behavior. Possessing this competence means knowing accurately which emotions you are feeling and how to manage them toward effective performance and a healthy balance in your life. If self‐aware, you also will have a sense of perspective about yourself, seeking and learning from feedback and constructive criticism from others.
Active Listening – The ability to fully comprehend information presented by others through careful monitoring of words spoken, voice inflections, para‐linguistic statements, and non‐verbal cues. Although that seems obvious , the number of lawyers and law students who are poor listeners suggests the need for better development of this skill. It requires intense concentration and discipline. Smart technology devices have developed a very quick mode of “listening” to others. Preoccupation with those devices makes it very challenging to give proper weight and attention to face‐to‐face interactions. Exhibiting weak listening skills with your colleagues/classmates/clients might also mean that they will not get to the point of telling you what they really want to say. Thus, you miss the whole import of what the message was to be.
Questioning – The art and skill of knowing when and how to ask for information. Questions can be of various types, each type having different goals. Inquiries can be broad or narrow, non‐leading to leading. They can follow a direct funnel or an inverted funnel approach. A questioner can probe to follow up primary questions and to remedy inadequate responses. Probes can range from encouraging more discussion, to asking for elaboration on a point, to even being silent. Developing this skill also requires controlling one’s own need to talk and control the conversation.
Empathy– Sensing and perceiving what others are feeling, being able to see their perspective, and cultivating a rapport and connection. To do the latter effectively, you must communicate that understanding back to the other person by articulating accurately their feelings. They then will know that you have listened accurately, that you understand, and that you care. Basic trust and respect can then ensue.
Communicating/Presenting –The ability to assertively present compelling arguments respectfully and sell one’s ideas to others. It also means knowing how to speak clearly and with a style that promotes accurate and complete listening. As a professional, communicating means persuading and influencing effectively in a situation without damaging the potential relationship. Being able to express strong feelings and emotions appropriately in a manner that does not derail the communication is also important.
Resilience –The ability to deal with difficult situations calmly and cope effectively with stress; to be capable of bouncing back from or adjusting to challenges and change; to be able to learn from your failures, rejections, feedback and criticism, as well as disappointments beyond your control. Being resilient and stress hardy also implies an optimistic and positive outlook, one that enables you to absorb the impact of the event, recover within a reasonable amount of time, and to incorporate relevant lessons from the event.
March 24, 2013
Thank you to an Anonymous Alum
Each year, the instructors in Indiana Law's 1L Legal Professions class coordinate with Indiana Law's Office on Career and Professional Development (OCPD) to run the Career Choices Speakers Series -- 16 lunchtime forums on Thursdays and Fridays throughout the second semester. It has been an enormous hit with students. Although our 1Ls are required to attend at least three, a huge proportion of the 1Ls attend over ten.
Below is a photo of this Thursday's pizza run for the session on Direct Service Public Interest Lawyers -- 22 pizzas and the laptop/scanner used for attendance. Over the course of semester, we will purchase well over 300 pizzas. Who pays for all of this food and equipment (plus about a dozen dinners for students and alums that occur before and after these events)? An Indiana Law alumni who profoundly believes in the role of ethics and integrity to achieve personal and professional success in life. And he has done so quietly, behind the scenes, every year for the last five.
I thought our alum would enjoy seeing the pizza gurney. Thank you! You are opening students' eyes and helping them make better decisions, all through relationships with other lawyers.
[photo credit, 1L Dakota Scheu, via iPhone]. For additional information on this highly effective program, see my prior post, A New Tool for Lawyer Professional Development.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
February 17, 2013
ReInventLaw Silicon Valley 2013 @ The Computer History Museum
On March 8, 2013 - The ReInventLaw Laboratory - Founded by Daniel Katz and Renee Knake from Michigan State will host ReInventLaw Silicon Valley 2013 @ The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.
Topics to be covered include:
LegalTechStartUp, Lawyer Regulation, Quantitative Legal Prediction, Legal Supply Chain, Project Management, Technology Aided Access to Justice, Design, 3D-Printing, Driverless Cars, Business of Law, Legal Education, Legal Information Engineering, New Business Models for Law, Lean Lawyering, Augmented Reality, Legal Process Outsourcing, Big Data, New Markets for Law, Virtual Law Practice, E-Discovery, Information Visualization, E-Discovery, Legal Entrepreneurship, Legal Automation … and much more.
What do I need to know?
- At all price points, the legal services market is rapidly changing and this disruption represents peril & possibility. This meeting is about the possibility ... about some of the game changers who are already building the future of this industry.
- This is a 1 day event featuring 40 speakers in a high energy format with specific emphasis on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
- It will highlight the new and growing portion of the legal services industry. It will not be boring.
- For more on our lab and related events please see: http://reinventlaw.com/
How Much Does it Cost?
This event is generously sponsored in part by the Ewing M. Kauffman Foundation, Michigan State University College of Law and the ReInvent Law Laboratory.
Thus, tickets are FREE but limited.
There will only be 400 tickets for this free event. Many of them are already taken and when they are gone, they are gone. Thus, if you or your friends/colleagues/students would be interested in attending -please sign up today.
Final Thoughts …
As I mentioned to Bill Henderson the other day … the old internet adage applies with equal vigor in the legal services industry "the future is here … it is just not evenly distributed."
Come join the future already in progress at #ReInventLaw Silicon Valley March 8th, 2013 (and at our other free public events in London and New York later in 2013).
February 17, 2013 in Current events, Fun and Learning in the classroom, Important research, Innovations in law, Innovations in legal education, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 13, 2013
Jim Moliterno Answers Questions on W&L's 3L Program; Supplies Additional Data on W&L
My previous post on Washington & Lee's 3L Program stirred a lot of interest and commentary, including some disbeleiving critics. Fortunately, Professor Jim Moliterno agreed to write a reply essay, below, that completes the cycle. [Bill Henderson]
Jim Moliterno Replies [This is a long reply, so a PDF version online here]
A number of comments to Bill’s January 28 post and posts regarding it on other blogs cause me to enter this conversation.
Are students really coming to W&L because of the new curriculum? Yes, to a significant extent. How do we know? Because the entering students say so. As do many law schools, we administer a questionnaire to our enrolling students. Among the questions asked is the obvious one: why are you here?
In the most recent such survey the students were asked to rank the strengths of the law school. Here are the top ten, in order, according to the entering students:
- Third Year Curriculum
- Ranking / Prestige
- Quality of Life
- National Reputation
- Job Placement
- General Cirriculum
- Clinical Program
- Financial Aid Award
- Size of Lexington
The curriculum reform was first. Financial aid awards were 9th, just ahead of the “size of Lexington.” The data does not support the unsubstantiated claims of some bloggers that students are choosing W&L because of the generosity of financial aid awards.
The curriculum reform has steadily moved higher on the “strength” rankings given by enrolled students since 2009. The 2011 and 2012 surveys are nearly identical, and the written comments of students about their reasons for coming to W&L (none reprinted here), are more striking than the numbers themselves.
I don’t know of any better data on this proposition but the statements of those whose reasons are under study. If that data is unsatisfying to some, then they will continue to be unsatisfied.
Are there other reasons students come to W&L? Of course. W&L has a highly productive, highly visible faculty engaged in scholarship and projects at the highest levels. Some students undoubtedly value W&L’s faculty prowess. W&L is highly ranked. Some students undoubtedly are affected by a top 25 ranking. It has an excellent reputation as a small, closely-knit academic community. Some students select for the sense of community and size. No reason will ever be the only reason for prospective students to choose a law school. Changes made by law schools will affect student choices for or against a particular law school. The W&L curriculum reform is positively affecting a significant number of students’ calculus about choosing W&L.
And some do come because of the financial aid package they were offered. But the financial aid reason is unlikely to explain the increase in applications since 2008. Some students, the recipients of aid, undoubtedly come in part because of the aid. That is no different than the students who choose [insert name of any school] because of the financial aid they were awarded. In 2012, about the same number of offers of admission were made as in previous years, but instead of the usual 130 or 135 admittees choosing to attend, more than 260 made deposits. Some were asked to defer their attendance until 2013 and once the dust settled we had a class of 187 instead of the usual 130 to 135. This same class entering in 2012 listed the curriculum reform first and financial aid ninth as strengths of the law school.
What else was happening in 2008 and 09 when the applications increased by nearly 33% per year?
In 2009 and 10, while W&L applications were on the rise, the US News ranking fell from 25-34 (while its reputation rank among academics stayed steady). It has now recovered to 24. If anything, that should have led to a drop in applications during 2008-2011 rather than the sharp increases that actually occurred.
Can we exclude all other possible explanations than those previously mentioned? Of course not. It could be that being in a small, beautiful mountain town is all the rage among young adults and 33% more students want that now than wanted it in 2007. I know of no data to prove or disprove that proposition, so it remains one that could be true. The reality is that the students who have come in recent years rate the curriculum reform among the top reasons (often the most important reason) for their attendance at W&L. That matters.
There is empirical evidence that the W&L curriculum reform is engaging students more than in the traditional “no plan” third year curriculum. Is it perfect evidence? Of course not. Is it definitive evidence that has no flaw? Of course not. Is anything ever supported by perfect, definite evidence that has no flaw? Not to my knowledge. We make all of our most important decisions in life based on the best available evidence. As long as the evidence is empirically sound and statistically significant, it is worthy of respect. The evidence of W&L 3L engagement increases is sound and statistically significant and marks a path toward further research and verification.
One commenter suggested that the data is suspect because the peer schools have not been identified. Their data belongs to them, not W&L. LSSSE does not make specific school data available to other schools. So W&L has only a composite score for those peer schools. And it would be unseemly for W&L to reveal the specific schools. I will not do so here. But to be sure, W&L asked LSSSE to calculate the data from a list of schools because they are the schools with whom W&L competes for students and competes in the rankings. It would not have served W&L’s research interests to learn how it compares with a list of schools that it does not compete with in the marketplace. No one at W&L has the data for any specific school.
Nonetheless, do not be mistaken, the schools with whom W&L is compared in LSSSE data are the schools anyone would expect them to be: schools that by their geography, rank and quality compete with W&L in the relevant markets for students and placement.
One observation: in the legal profession and legal education in particular, the status quo never seems to need empirical justification. Only change is suspect and wrong until proven definitively to be otherwise. Is there any empirical evidence that the status quo third year is the best possible third year except that it has been done that way for a long time? None that I know of. The old adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” does not apply here. The third year of legal education is “broke”.
Amid calls for its abandonment by some, dating back at least to the early 1970s report by Paul Carrington, the third year is widely acknowledged to be of the least value among the three years. (See below on W&L’s largely unchanged approach to years 1 and 2.) The Roman Legions (and more than a few other military powers) have found out that the mere fact that something has been successfully done before is not sufficient evidence that it will prevail in the present or future. Arguing in favor of the status quo based on no empirical evidence, . . . based only on instinct and the argument that it is the way things are currently done, is an approach doomed to failure. Just ask Kodak. (And see my forthcoming book: “The American Legal Profession In Crisis,” Oxford, March 2013.)
How about the claim that “[W&L’s LSAT has] gone down every year since [the new curriculum was announced], while its GPA rank has, after a plunge, more or less returned to where it was.” The blogger made that claim, once again without any data, let alone empirically credible data. Actually the W&L median LSAT was steady at 166 from 2005-2010, dropped 2 points to 164 in 2011 and stayed at 164 for 2012. It has not “gone down every year since [the new curriculum was announced in 2008].” Meanwhile, the GPA of entering classes, which was in the 3.5 and 3.4 range in 2008-2010, has gone up to the 3.6 range (3.65 and 3.62) in 2011 and 2012. The two modest changes in LSAT and GPA have essentially off-set one another in US News points. Hardly the reason for pause suggested by the blogger.
It seems that as long as someone is arguing against change, no rules apply to the arguments’ underpinnings.
Here is what the empirical evidence from the LSSSE surveys shows and what it does not show: students are more engaged in their work and their work includes more writing, more collaboration and more problem solving. Here are a few charts even more striking than those Bill used in his post. Together they say that significantly more than their peers or their predecessors at W&L, current third year students are working more, writing more, collaborating more, applying law to real world problems more, and preparing for class more often. Overall, they describe a harder-working, more engaged student body. And they are working harder at acquire the skills that matter to success as a lawyer.
Together with the entering student survey numbers, here is what the application increases at W&L show and do not show: prospective students are choosing to apply and then enroll in a law school with a third year curriculum that engages them more in the work of lawyers. The data do not show what employers think or do not think about the curriculum reform.
It is too early for employment data. One full class has graduated from the new curriculum, in May 2012, and that in a time of such incredibly reduced employment of new lawyers. No innovation, no matter how much it might improve graduates’ abilities to perform, will change employment data until employers become convinced. That time is not yet come. It is highly unlikely that employers will break out of established patterns in times like the present when they are hiring a scant few new lawyers.
We live in a world of enormous pedigree influence. So no matter how successful our curriculum is for students, I do not expect that we will make employment gains vis a vis the top five or ten schools in the rankings. Instead, I do expect that over a five to ten year period, we will make gains vis a vis schools that are in our peer group, defined roughly as everyone between 20 and 40. Likewise, if other schools institute well-designed and substantively effective experiential education curriculum reforms, I would not expect that they will suddenly make dramatic gains against much more highly ranked schools. For example, if a school ranked number 150 institutes excellent reforms, I would not expect them to make gains versus schools in the top 50. But if they do the reform well AND if they make it known AND if they preserve what is already effective in the rest of their curriculum AND if they have an effective career services shop, they will make gains against the schools within their peer group.
Asking for data to show that employers have broken down the doors of a law school to hire graduates after one year is actually a bit silly. No one who seriously respects data and the market would expect such data to exist. That is a five to ten year project and is limited even then by the pedigree factor mentioned in this paragraph.
Curriculum merits. The curriculum relies on clinics, externships and practicum courses. Readers of this blog know about the first two and less about the third. The new “practicum” courses are not skills courses. Instead, they are courses about the lawyers’ work in various practice settings. Rather than rely exclusively on courses in trial ad or negotiation or interviewing, the W&L curricular reform relies primarily on courses like The Lawyer for Failing Businesses and Mergers and Acquisitions Practicum and Corporate Counsel and Poverty Law Litigation and The Litigation Department Lawyer. In these courses, students learn the relevant substantive law, but they learn it the way lawyers do rather than the way students do. They learn law to solve a client’s problem. This alone is an activity that adjusts students’ mental pathways from student to lawyer.
At W&L, students are purely students in years 1 and 2. They read cases from casebooks and attend class and take final exams. None of that focus of lost. But, they spend their third year learning law as lawyers do, with a client’s service at the center rather than an exam at the center. For example, in a course called The Lawyer For Failing Businesses, the students are placed in the role of a lawyer representing a failing business. They counsel the client about bankruptcy options. They draft the documents necessary to start a bankruptcy proceeding. They negotiate with creditors. They draft financing documents. They deal with ancillary litigation. In doing so, they learn bankruptcy law, but not for the mere transient purpose of passing a three hour exam. They learn it in the context of its immediate use for a client.
Is it quite as wide as a traditional course in Bankruptcy? No. But it does convey to students the theory of bankruptcy law and its use. In practice, lawyers do not answer clients’ questions by saying, “Yes, I learned about that on the Tuesday of the third week of my Torts course.” They use the essence of a topic to research and discover the best answer to the client’s very specific set of circumstances.
Nothing of consequence is lost by missing a topic in a course. Studies show that students retain about 10% of what we tell them. Coverage-need is passé. It is what faculty members argued (sometimes disingenuously) when their Property course was being reduced from 6 to 4 credits. It is old news. No one can claim that students can be exposed to every law topic that might be beneficial to them. Students need the essence of a topic for their use in practice, not the detail, likely forgotten in any event. We unduly glorify ourselves to think that students remember everything we say in class or assign them to read. They retain the core. We hope.
Many of us have had students say, “I never learned anything about Contracts [insert whatever course you like] until I used it in my clinic [my summer job, my externship, my practice].” Of course students are wrong to say this. They acquired cognitive knowledge during their course; they realized the gain when they used the knowledge. But their comments do have meaning: to fully grasp and understand, students must not only acquire knowledge but they must also use it.
First and second year, a three year curriculum not a third year curriculum. The reformed third year curriculum follows from the first and second years. It does not stand alone and is no rejection of the good that exists in traditional legal education.
The first year has long served a valuable purpose. In it, students’ thinking is transformed to that of a legal analyst and the skill-peak of academics is on display most prominently. The comparative advantage in teaching by academics is most pronounced in the first year. We shine and are perhaps irreplaceable here. Students must have the critical thinking skills that we provide to them through our first year teaching techniques. W&L instruction in the first year is largely unchanged from the past. We have added courses in international law and administrative law to the usual stable of 1L courses, and we now teach professional responsibility to second semester, first year students. (Some schools have done the same, but we are in the minority in including these three courses in the 1L year.) But the mission of the first year is the same as it ever was. It succeeds.
The second year is also largely unchanged from the past. Our second year students predominantly enroll in the core subjects that are not covered in the first year: evidence, corporations, basic tax, constitutional law (a first year subject at many schools), criminal procedure, trusts and estates (though to a lesser extent than in the past), etc. Many students engage in the law journal activities, the moot court competitions and the newer negotiation, mediation, client counseling and transactional skills competitions.
I won’t repeat here everything about how the third year works, but it requires a full credit load (24 credits) of experiential education, including clinics, externships, immersion courses (litigation and transactional), practicum courses (elaborate simulations of practice settings), and a service requirement. But within the student’s third year there is space for a traditional course in each semester if the student chooses. So the student who lands a clerkship and has not yet taken Fed Courts can do so in the third year, for example, without being in an overload.
Ours remains a three year curriculum, with the first two years attending well to the traditional missions of the law school experience. The third year is being made more valuable; the first two are not being slighted or cast aside.
Bar exam? So far we have not seen statistically significant bar exam results. In one year, the pass rate was up and the next year down, but neither to statistically significant levels. We are paying attention to this possible issue and so far see no cause for concern. We will continue to monitor. I would say that the current, traditional bar exam is itself an impediment to legal education reform. With some states testing 28 subjects and students typically taking fewer than that number in the entire three years, room for courses that include among their teaching goals problem solving, team work, writing, business sense, etc., are a luxury that insecure students and law schools cannot afford. All schools have some students who are bar-exam-at-risk. Some schools have a majority of such students. In general, the more insecure the students and law school, the less able they are to reform their curriculum to reflect the actual needs of students to succeed as lawyers. The bar exam has always been touted as a “gatekeeper.” But as the subjects tested have proliferated and the practice has become more sophisticated and less reliant on rote memorization of knowledge, the gatekeeper bears less and less relationship to what is on the other side of the gate. A macramé test would also keep the gate secure, but it would say nothing about the qualities of the passing takers to excel on the other side of the gate. The traditional bar exam becomes less and less relevant to the practice of law every year.
There is nothing anti-academic about studying the work of lawyers. To say so betrays a false elitism more likely borne of insecurity than of truth. Many legal academics could not do what lawyers do: solve real clients’ problems that involve extra-legal attributes. The work of lawyers is sophisticated. It partakes of some of the rigor of law school teaching and scholarship, but it also relies on sophisticated problem-solving and a multiplicity of other talents. Some who claim that lawyer work is mundane and uninteresting fail to understand the nature of that work in the first instance. Some who make the claim seek cover from their own lack of capacity to do such work. Describing it as uninteresting allows the speaker to hide his or her inadequacy. The study of effective lawyers is a sophisticated inquiry. The work of excellent lawyers is not mundane. And the mundane tasks undertaken by beginning lawyers in the past are becoming commoditized and outsourced.
The current system of legal education fails to account for a simple truth: the skill-set of legal academics is not a perfect overlap with that of the role to which the vast majority of our students aspire. The 19th Century redesign of legal education was based on the premise that law school’s primary mission was not to create lawyers but rather to create law professors. (This conclusion is documented in the correspondence of the main contemporary actors involved in the reform.) Many adjustments have been made over the subsequent century and a quarter, but the remnants of those 19th Century decisions persist today.
Generally speaking, legal academics are excellent law analyzers and theorists. We are critical thinkers and precise analysts of law and its theoretical underpinnings. Students need this same talent and we are best at conveying it, especially in the traditional first-year courses and teaching modes. But to be successful lawyers, students need more than that foundational thinking skill. They need to learn how to problem solve when some of the factors are not strictly law-related; they need to learn to work in teams and to manage projects; they need to acquire a measure of business sense whether they serve as business counsel or manage their own law shop; they need to learn how to manage risk and assess the risk adversity level of clients; they need to communicate the law and its constraints to non-lawyers; they need to acquire bedside manner. In short, there is a multitude of talents and skills and attributes that students need to acquire that are not the skill-domain of academics (with many academics being an exception to this rule).
One blogger said that the 3L curriculum at W&L “focuses on practical lawyer skills.” This sort of statement sells the new curriculum far short of its reality. It actually focuses on the attributes, skills and mental habits of successful lawyers, all while providing students with substantive law and theoretical learning as well. A broad view of lawyer skills would include the mental development fostered in the first year as well. It is time to stop pretending that legal analysis is not a practical lawyer skill. It is—and it is both critical and fundamental—but it is not the only skill/attribute/talent that lawyers need to be successful.
Successful lawyers can and should be our partners in providing this education. They know better than we do about many of these skills and attributes. Indeed, some of this learning will inevitably continue to take place after law school. But the economic realities of today’s legal market dictate that less teaching is being done after law school. Law firms teach less than they once did and more graduates are having to find their own way as solos. Demands from all quarters are that legal education provide at least a head start on the development of students in these realms. Prospective students, the practicing branch, and paying clients are all making such demands, and we ignore them at our peril. Some law schools that ignore this market demand will fail.
Legal education and the legal profession are at a crossroads. Applications are strikingly down for a reason. Schools can stand pat if they choose, and some have the market power to do so for a significant time after change would be prudent and effective. All others do so at their peril. Change is not good merely for change’s sake. But it is not prudent to stay the same when the world has changed. The practicing branch has changed; client needs and demands have changed; the society that the legal profession claims to serve has changed. Only legal education (and the organized bar) now remain stubbornly tied to anachronistic ways. The legal profession itself and legal education in particular, live as if they had eyes on the back of their head, but none on their face. Only what is past seems to be valued-- Even when what has past has no empirical basis and the conditions in which it exists have dramatically changed.
Bill Henderson based his opinion on good data. Not perfect data but good data. Data sufficient to guide decisions in most realms of life and work. The responses to Bill’s post to date have been based on virtualy no data, but rather on surmise and rumor and vague impressions of W&L’s. My fondest hope would be that many thoughtful, careful innovators pursue their projects and produce as much data as the legal education project allows. This is not a one-size-fits-all enterprise. But the W&L reform is one that preserves the best of a traditional legal education while enhancing what can be improved about traditional legal education. It does not deny the value of academic work. It does not deny the value of traditional teaching methods. It adds to them third year experiences that the best data available shows are having positive effects.
[posted by Jim Moliterno]
February 13, 2013 in Blog posts worth reading, Current events, Data on legal education, Innovations in law, Innovations in legal education, New and Noteworthy, Scholarship on legal education, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (6)
February 10, 2013
Do the Best Lawyers have Excellent "Slow" Brains?
We were born with a fast brain, but we need a slow one to advance civilization, among other things. I am talking about insights of behavioral economics being applied to lawyer decisonmaking and judgment, and I think the answer to my question is "yes". Indeed, I think the insights of behavior econonomics put a whole new and important gloss on the tired adage, "Thinking like a lawyer."
We cover the basics of this topic in my 1L Legal Professions class. Apparently, it resonated with one of my many attentive students, as he/she sent me this amazing science video. It boils down all of Dan Kahneman's brilliant Thinking, Fast and Slow treatise into four very engaging minutes. This is a vegetable that tastes like chocolate. (H/T to a wise anonymous 1L at Indiana Law.)
[posted by Bill Henderson]
January 29, 2013
Washington & Lee is Biggest Legal Education Story of 2013
Here it is in a nutshell. There is empirical evidence that Washington & Lee’s experiential 3L curriculum is delivering a significantly better education to 3L students—significantly better than prior graduating classes at W&L, and significantly better than W&L’s primary competitors. Moreover, at a time when total law school applicants are on the decline, W&L’s getting more than its historical share of applicants and getting a much higher yield. When many schools are worried about revenues to survive next year and the year after, W&L is worried about creating the bandwidth needed to educate the surplus of students who enrolled in the fall of 2012, and the backlog of applicants that the school deferred to the fall of 2013.
[This is a long essay. If you want it in PDF format, click here.]
Alas, now we know: There is a market for high quality legal education. It consists of college graduates who don’t want to cast their lot with law schools who cannot guarantee students entree to meaningful practical training. Some might argue that W&L is not objectively better-- that the 3L curriculum is a marketing ploy where the reality falls well short of promotional materials and that, regardless, prospective students can't judge quality.
Well, in fact there is substantial evidence that the W&L 3L program delivers comparative value. The evidence is based on several years' worth of data from the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE). I received permission from Professor James Moliterno, someone who took a leadership role in building W&L’s third year program, to share some of the key results (each school controls access to its LSSSE data.) They are below.
But before getting into empirical evidence, I want to put squarely on the table the most sobering finding that likely applies to virtually all of legal education. It is this: On several key LSSSE metrics, W&L has made impressive gains vis-à-vis its own historical benchmarks and its primary rival schools. But even for this leader, there remains enormous room for improvement. More on that below.
Here is the bottom line: Traditional legal education, when it is measured, does not fare very well. Yet, as W&L shows, substantial improvement is clearly possible. We law professors can respond to this information in one of two ways:
- Don’t measure, as it may disconfirm our belief that we are delivering a great education.
- Measure—even when it hurts—and improve.
I am in the second camp. Indeed, I don’t know if improvement is possible without measurement. Are we judging art work or the acquisition of key professional skills needed for the benefit of clients and the advancement of the public good?
Moving the Market
I doubt I will ever forget Jim Moliterno’s September 2012 presentation at the Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers (ETL) conference at the University of Denver. He presented a single graph (chart below) showing W&L actual applicant volumes since 2008 versus what would have happened at W&L if its applicant volume had followed national trends.
While law school applicants crested a few years ago, W&L enjoyed a large run-up in volume of applicants, presumably due to the launching of their new 3L program. This larger applicant pool effectively served as a buffer when applicant declines began in 2011 and 2012. Since 2008, overall law school applicants are down -19%, yet W&L is up overall +33%.
But much more significantly, after their experiential 3L year was up and running and the overall legal job market continued to stagnate, W&L yields spiked. Ordinarily they would enroll 135 students. But for the fall of 2012, they received enrollment commitments from well over 260 students. Indeed, at the ETL conference Jim Moliterno said the school had to offer financially attractive deferments to get the class to approximately 185 incoming students -- a 50 student bulge.
When Jim Moliterno showed the above graph and explained the corresponding changes in yield, my good friend Gillian Hadfield, a skeptical, toughminded, evidence-demanding economist who teaches at USC Law, leaned over and said to me, “that is the single most important takeaway from this entire conference.” I agreed. The market for a legal education with practical training is, apparently, much more inelastic than the market for traditional JD programs.
Yet, what is perhaps most remarkable is that a large proportion of incoming students at W&L were enrolling based on little more than faith. Nobody knew for sure if W&L had the ability to pull off their ambitious 3L curriculum. The program relies on a large cadre of adjunct professors, after all, and W&L is located in remote Lexington, Virginia. Many law faculty outside of W&L, and perhaps some inside, thought (or perhaps think) that the program could not live up to the hype. Well, as shown below, the program appears to have produced meaningful gains.
The only data-driven critique anyone can muster is that the gains remain significantly short of perfection. But that critique bites harder on the rest of us. To use a simple metaphor, W&L is tooling around in a Model-T while the rest of us rely on horse and buggy. What ought to be plain to all of us, however, is that, just like automobile industry circa 1910, we are entering a period of staggering transformation that will last decades. And transformation will be roughly equal parts creation and destruction. See Schumpeter.
W&L Data, Internal Historical Benchmark
LSSSE is a phenomenally rich dataset – nearly 100 questions per year on a wide variety of topics related to student classroom experience, faculty interaction, type and quantity of assessments, time allocation, and perceived gains on a variety of dimensions related to personal and professional development. The survey instrument is online here.
Aside from a host of questions related to demographics, career goals, and debt, major sections in the LSSSE include:
- Section 1, Intellectual Experience (20 questions)
- Section 2, Examinations (1 question)
- Section 3, Mental Activities (5 questions)
- Section 4, Writing (3 questions)
- Section 5, Enriching Educational Experiences (9 questions)
- Section 6, Student Satisfaction (7 questions)
- Section 7, Time Usage (11 questions)
- Section 8, Law School Environment (10 questions)
- Section 9, Quality of Relationships (3 questions)
- Section 10, Educational and Personal Growth (16 questions)
W&L deserves to be a detailed case study. But frankly, legal education can’t wait. So I will do the best I can to cover the landscape in a blog post. I hope every law faculty member who reads this post makes a strong plea to their dean to enroll in LSSSE. Why? So your school can benchmark itself against the detailed LSSSE case studies that are bound to flow out of W&L and other innovative law schools. Though they don’t get much press, there are, in fact, other innovative law schools.The dataset I have for W&L covers 2004, 2008, and 2012. This is the same data that Jim Moliterno briefly shared at the ETL conference. I have put them into bar charts so that readers can see the scores on several questions at once. Two important interpretative notes:
- LSSSE is especially useful when an entire class (1L, 2L, or 3L cohort) experiences a curricular change. This happened with Indiana Law's 1L Legal Professions class. It is also happening here, as all W&L 3L students had the benefit of the experiential 3L curriculum. Assuming nothing else signficant has changed (a safe assumption when it comes to legal education), the classwide change enables a simple "event study" analysis.
- W&L LSSSE scores for 2004 and 2008 are much more alike than they are different. The big differences appear between 2008 and 2012. So that is what I discuss below.
Section 1 differences are displayed below (3L students only). Click on the chart to enlarge.
The big takeaway here is that W&L gained in 17 out of 20 categories. Because Section 1 is put on a 4 point scale, just like a traditional academic grading system, we can analyze the data using something akin to a LSSSE Section GPA . W&L's Section 1 GPA for 2008 was 2.52, which is essentially on the C+/B- cut point. Only one factor -- communicated with faculty via email--was meaningfully above a 3.0.
We can contrast that with a 2.85 GPA for 2012, which is in the B-/B territory. W&L's overall average increased by .33 points, and six measure are above 3.0. It experienced the biggest gains on the following:
- +.77, Put together ideas or concepts from different courses when completing assignments or during class discussions.
- +.75, Participated in a clinical or pro bono project as part of a course or for academic credit.
- +.53, Put together ideas or concepts from different courses when completing assignments or during class discussions.
- +.51, Worked with classmates outside of class to prepare class assignments.
- +.49, Prepared two or more drafts of a paper or assignment before turning it in.
- +.47, Discussed assignments with a faculty member.
- +.44, Used email to communicate with a faculty member (now a 3.65).
- +.43, Talked about career plans or job search activities with a faculty member or advisor
- +.41, Worked with other students on project during class
There is still enormous room for improvement, but W&L's 3L experiential program appears to have really moved the needle on factors related to the Section 1 Intellectual Experiences factors.
W&L fares even better on Section 3, which covers the mental activities that ostensibly comprise "thinking like a lawyer." [Click on chart to enlarge]
As shown above, W&L 3Ls drop in only one category -- rote memorization for repeating on an exam. Surely, that pleases the W&L faculty. These are 3Ls after all. The overall Section 3 GPA, which excludes 3a, moves from 3.07 (B) to 3.41 (B+). Question 3c to 3e are true higher order lawyering skills. W&L ought to wheel out these data the next time some bar association claims that legal education is not accomplishing anything. At some places, maybe. But good things appear to be happening at W&L.
Washington & Lee shows similar gains in the other key LSSSE sections. If you are curious, you'll have to wait for the detailed W&L case study, which I hope will get written someday by someone at W&L. What is no doubt of greater interest to the broader legal education community, however, is how well W&L is doing against other law schools--i.e., like us.
W&L Data, External Peer Benchmarks
LSSSE data are the property of law school who pay for the survey. The survey is designed to improve the education programming rather than create an industrywide ranking. Roughly 50% of law schools participate each year. Since its inception in 2003, 179 law schools have participate for at least one year.
Although the data are reported at the individual school-level, comparative benchmarks are a key part of the LSSSE value proposition. Comparative benchmarks include size, public/private, the total LSSSE sample, and a peer group specified by the school. For example, at Indiana, we might want to look at other Big 10 public law schools. We don't get to see our rivals' scores, individually, but we can get a group average for five or more schools we select that are also participating in that specific year.
I am told that schools typically pick their peer groups based on similar rank, geography, and applicant pool, etc. I thought W&L's peer comparison would be the most relevant to show here.
Below are the 11 (out of 20) factors in LSSSE Section 1 in which W&L is higher than its peer benchmark at statistically significant levels. Again, only 3Ls in the sample I am using here. [Click on to enlarge]
On these 11 benchmarks, W&L posts a "GPA" of 3.02 (B) versus 2.45 for the peers (C+). Again, W&L has plenty of room to grow, but relatively speaking, it is dramatically outperforming its competition.
What about those critical Section 3 Mental Activities that comprise "thinking like a lawyer"? Again, W&L is outdistancing the competition. [Click to enlarge]
Section 4 pertains to writing. Ask any professional development coordinator in a law firm about the biggest weakenesses of incoming associates, and you'll get a near unanimous reply: "writing." Well, the best way to become a better legal writer is to write. How did to W&L 3Ls do on that front? 3L students at W&L write a ton. [See chart below, click on to enlarge.]
W&L 3Ls write roughly the same number of 20-page papers as those at peer schools, but in the 1-4 and 5-19 page category, W&L 3Ls surge ahead of the competition at statistically signficant levels. In the above chart, the 3.27 score for papers in the 5-19 page range corresponds to 6-7 medium length papers during the 3L year. Peers, in contrast, are roughly at 3 medium length papers. The 3.68 score in the 1-4 page category also equals roughly 7 short papers during the 3L year; peers write roughly half that number, roughly 3-4 short numbers.
Section 7 covers time usage. Not surprisingly, W&L 3Ls spend more time prepping for classes beyond just reading assigned text -- roughly 7 hours more per week. [See chart below, click on to enlarge.]
Section 9 focuses on the quality of relationships within the school. In terms of 3L student relationships with faculty and administration, they are quite high -- indeed, higher at statistically significant levels than W&Ls peer schools. [See chart below, click on to enlarge.]
Finally, Section 10 asks a series of questions related to how well the law school experience has contributed to the student's knowledge, skill and personal development. [See chart below, click on to enlarge.]
On 10 of 15 questions, W&L is posting higher scores than its competition -- all at statistically significant level. But as I noted above, there remains room for improvement. W&L Section 10 "GPA" is 2.99 (B). Its competitor's GPA is 2.7 (B-).
There are three takeaways from this blog posts:
- A sizeable number of prospective students really do care about practical skills training and are voting with their feet. W&L has therefore become a big winner in the race for applicants.
- W&L's 3L experiential curriculum is substantial improvement over the curriculum W&L offered in 2004 and 2008; moreover, there is room for even more improvement.
- There is substantial evidence that W&L, with some modest focused energy on the curriculum, is now offering a better educational experience than its peer schools -- albeit, the current grade is a "B" at best for W&L and likely lower for the rest of us. We all, therefore, have a lot of work to do.
The example of the Washington & Lee 3L experiential year ought to be a watershed for legal education. We can no longer afford to ignore data. Through LSSSE, high quality comparative data are cheap and comprehensive. And that information, as we have seen, can significantly improve the value of a legal education.
[Posted by Bill Henderson]
January 18, 2013
A Blueprint for Change
Brian discusses the bleak employment prospects of law schools, but (through no fault of his own) understates the nature of the structural change that is occurring in the U.S. and global market for legal services. In Part II, I will write about some logical next steps for law schools looking to get ahead of the coming tsunami.
I tried to write Part II, but a blog post just was not up to the task. Further, I sensed that my colleagues were in no mood for half-baked solutions. There has been enormous criticism of legal education on the blogs and in the media, but very little in the way of detailed prescriptions to improve the situation. I felt an obligation to back off on the criticism and focus on solutions. So, in essence, Part II of my Tamanaha review became an article.
I just posted to SSRN an article entitled "A Blueprint for Change" forthcoming in the Pepperdine Law Review. It is both a diagnosis and a proposed solution -- a solution I am actively pursuing. Here is the abstract:
This Article discusses the financial viability of law schools in the face of massive structural changes now occurring within the legal industry. It then offers a blueprint for change – a realistic way for law schools to retool themselves in an attempt to provide our students with high quality professional employment in a rapidly changing world. Because no institution can instantaneously reinvent itself, a key element of my proposal is the “12% solution.” Approximately 12% of faculty members take the lead on building a competency-based curriculum that is designed to accelerate the development of valuable skills and behaviors prized by both legal and nonlegal employers. For a variety of practical reasons, successful implementation of the blueprint requires law schools to band together in consortia. The goal of these initiatives needs to be the creation and implementation of a world-class professional education in which our graduates consistently and measurably outperform graduates from traditional J.D. programs.
I have a large backlog of shorter articles and analyses that I have not posted because I wanted my own detailed solution in the public domain. I hope to tie all of these ideas together over the coming weeks.
Thank you, Brian Tamanaha, for writing an book that required me to think in terms of solutions.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
January 18, 2013 in Current events, Data on legal education, Data on the profession, Innovations in legal education, Scholarship on legal education, Scholarship on the legal profession, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (2)
November 19, 2012
How to Increase Your Law School's Academic Reputation
Law schools care deeply about their academic reputation. If this were not true, my Indiana Law mailbox would not be stuffed full with glossy brochures sharing the news of faculty publications, impressive new hires, areas of concentration, and sundry distinguished speaker series, etc.
Because of the timing of these mailings – I got nearly 100 in Sept and October—I am guessing that the senders hoped to influence the annual U.S. News & World Report Academic Reputation survey. Cf. Michael Sauder & Wendy Espeland, Fear of Falling: The Effects of U.S. News & World Report Rankings on U.S. Law Schools 1 (Oct 2007) (reporting "increases in marketing expenditures aimed toward raising reputation scores in the USN survey"). But does it work? A recent study by Larry Cunningham (St. Johns Law) suggests that the effect is, at best, decimal dust.
Glossy brochures may not reliably affect Academic Reputation, but I have uncovered four factors that are associated with statistically significant increases and decreases of USN Academic Reputation. To illustrate, consider the scatterplot below, which plots the 1993 ordinal rank of USN Academic Reputation against the 2012 ordinal rank [click on to enlarge].
Four sets of dot (Red, Blue, Orange, and Green), each representing distinctive shared features of law schools, tend to be above or below the regression line. These patterns suggest that changes in USN Academic Reputation over time are probably not the result of random chance. But we will get to the significance of the Red, Blue, Orange, and Green dots soon enough.
The primary takeaway from the above scatterplot is that 2012 USN Academic Reputation is overwhelmingly a function of 1993 USN Academic Reputation. Over 88% of the variation is explained by a school's starting point 20 years earlier. Part of this lock-in effect may be lateral mobility. That is, there are perks at higher ranked schools: they tend to pay more; the teaching loads are lighter; and the prestige is greater, etc. So school-level reputations rarely change, just the work addresses of the most productive scholars. This is, perhaps, the most charitable way to explain the enormous stickiness of USN Academic Reputation.
That said, the scatterplot does not show a perfect correlation; slightly less than 12% of the variation is still in play to be explained by influences other than starting position. A small handful of schools have made progress over these 20 years (these are the schools above the regression line), and a handful have fallen backwards (those below the line).
The Red circles, Blue rectangles, Orange diamonds, and Green circles represent four law school-level attributes. The Reds have been big gainers in reputation, and so have the Blues. In contrast, the Oranges have all experienced big declines; and as as a group, so have the Greens. When the attributes of the Red, Blue, Orange, and Green Schools are factored into the regression, all four are statistically signficant (Red, p =.000; Blue, p = .001; Orange, p = .012; Green, p = .000) and the explained variation increases 4% to 92.3%. As far as linear models goes, this is quite an impressive result.
Before you look below the fold for answers, any guesses on what is driving the Red and Blue successes and Orange and Green setbacks?
Red circles are the five law schools that, over the last 20 years, have changed university affiliations and thereby changed their names. These include:
- Michigan State University. In 2004, the Detroit College of Law became Michigan State University College of Law. DCL was ranked 155 in Academic Reputation in 1993; in 2012, MSU Law was ranked 96, reflecting a 59 point jump, which is the largest in the dataset.
- Quinnipiac Law. In the mid-1990s, the University of Bridgeport Law School became Quinnipiac University School of Law. This switch in university affiliations came about as the result of law faculty and students wanting to distance themselves from the financial support given to Bridgeport from the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Since 1993, Quinnipiac's academic reputation has climbed from 166 to 123 (+43 spots).
- Seattle University. In 1994, the University of Puget Sound transferred the sponsorship of its law school to Seattle University, leading to the renaming and relocation of the law school. The reincarnated law school has fared well in USN Academic Reputation, increasing from 113 to 71 (+42).
- University of New Hampshire. In the spring of 2010, Franklin Pierce Law Center signed an affiliation agreement with the University of New Hampshire, the state's flagship public university, and in turn changed its name. UNH Law has fared well in the USN Academic Reputation survey, climbing from 151 to 123 (+28).
- Penn State Law. In 2000, the independent Dickinson School of Law, one of the oldest law schools in the nation, merged with Big 10 powerhouse Penn State University. The merger has been good for USN Academic Reputation, which has increased from 107 in 1993 to 84 in 2012 (+23).
So, USN Academic Reputation is likely influenced by the halo of a stronger university brand. But this strategy is only open to a handful of independent law schools and those affiliated with a weak, financially struggling central universities. So it is not generalizable as a strategy for increasing Academic Reputation. Sorry to get your hopes up.
Well, what about the Blue retangles?
This one is a little counterintuitive. I identifed three research-oriented law schools where, compared to the rest of the legal academy, conservatives have fared well during faculty hiring: George Mason, San Diego, and Pepperdine. Why these three? (If there are other law schools that have tried to build a strong conservative faculty brand, they have escaped my attention.)
- George Mason's Law & Economics emphasis.
- San Diego Law is a conservative Catholic law school that hosts The Right Coast blog.
- Pepperdine Law is a Christian-centered law school that hired Kenneth Starr to serve as dean as dean after he rapped up this tenure as Independent Counsel of the Clinton Whitewater investigation.
As show in the scatterplot above, all three law schools have fared very well in Academic Reputation: GMU (#76 to #51, +25), San Diego (#69 to #51, +18), and Pepperdine (#107 to #65, +42).
But wait, fellow academics vote in the USN Academic Reputation survey, and supposedly we are an overwhelmingly liberal. So why did these three conservative school fare so well? This could be combination of three factors:
- Discounts on productive scholars. Because GMU and San Diego are not put off by conservative credentials, they have gotten highly productive scholars at a discount. Among law schools on SSRN, GMU Law ranks #18 in all-time downloads and San Diego ranks #21 -- both are significantly higher than these schools' USN Academic Reputation and overall USN rank. But this does not explain Pepperdine, which ranks #117.
- USN "echo chamber" effect. My colleague, Jeff Stake, has documented that a school's USN Academic Reputation is influenced by changes in its overall USN ranking. So, if a school manages to increase its overall rank, USN Academic Reputation then rises. See Stake, The Interplay between Law School Rankings, Reputations, and Resource Allocation, 81 Ind. L. J. 229 (2006). A strong conservative brand probably helps a law school attract more than its share of highly credentialed conservative students. Until 2001, GMU Law was perennially a T2 law school; but in 2012, it was ranked #39. Likewise, until 2004, Pepperdine was perennially a T3/T4 (note their used to be five USN tiers); but in 2012, it was ranked #49. In contrast, USD Law (ranked #69 in the USN Overall in 2012) has increased its Academic Reputation significantly but moved sideways in the rankings (query: did USD understand the optimal tradeoffs between LSAT and UGPA?)
- USN Voters. The Survey voters are supposedly deans, associates deans, and newly tenured faculty. It is at least conceivable that administrators are, as a group, less liberal than their faculty. After all, they have to balance the law school budget each year. Similarly, law school administrators, who are accountable to central universities, and younger faculty, who just cleared the tenure gauntlet, are probably quite in tune with law schools comprised of highly productive scholars. And San Diego and GMU Law excel on that metric. This might be a non-factor. It is hard to tell.
If moving on USN Academic Reputation is really important to a faculty, the lesson here is, "make a hard, high-profile right turn, and wait a decade." That said, there are probably not enough spoils to go around for more than a handful of conservative law schools to use this strategy.
Name changes and conversativism are the factors associated with an increases in USN Academic Reputation. What are negative factors?
The three orange triangles are three schools that gained unprecedented notoriety based on either a rankings scandal or extensive negative treatment in the New York Times.
- Scandals. Illinois and Villanova both voluntarily disclosed that they submitted false admissions credentials to both the ABA and U.S. News. And both have taken a huge hit: within the incredibly stickly Tier 1, Illinois's Academic Reputation rank was #22 in 1993, #22 in 2011, and then #39 in 2012 (-17); similarly, Villanova's went from #69 in 1993, to #62 in 2011, to #106 in 2012 (-37). Quite a severe pummeling by USN voters!
- New York Times coverage. In his year long focus on law schools, David Segal of the New York Times signaled out New York Law School as a particularly egregious example of the excesses of law school. See Segal, Law School Economics: Ka-Ching!, N.Y. Times, July 16, 2011. If you were teaching in legal education in 2011, you read that article. New York Law School's Academic Reputation went from #95 in 1993, to #94 in 2011, to #114 in 2012 (-19). Ironically, New York Law School was embarking on real innovation in the years prior to the story, but negative press in the NY Times, regardless of accuracy or fairness, is a bell that can't be unrung.
The last factor is perhaps the most troubling.
There are 31 schools in the so-called Rust Belt, which I define as western PA and NY, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. These 31 law schools experienced an average USN Academic Reputation decline of 13 spots. And note, this includes the MSU Law +59 miracle jump and several elite law schools such as Northwestern (-2), Chicago (-3), and Michigan (-3) that are in the highly sticky T14 range. So, to get a -13 average, we need some really big negative numbers from many law schools.
Here, I will not name names. Instead, let me share the ten biggest drops by Rust Belt schools: -17, -20, -27, -30, -34, -34, -42, -43, -46, -49. Eight of the ten biggest 20-year drops were Rust Belt schools (and one of the remaining two was Villanova, which earned its spot through scandal).
Why is this happening? Well, the economic center of gravity of the US economy has been moving to the south and west for several decades now. Although this affects the Northeast just like it does the Midwest, the Northeast has become an agglomeration of "advanced producer services", which includes bankers, consultants, accountants, and lawyers. See Henderson & Alderson, The Changing Economic Geography of Law U.S. Law Firms (2008) (documenting a large increase in corporate law lawyers in the Northeastern Mid-Atlantic region and the relative hollowing out of corporate lawyers in the Rust Belt, with the exception of Chicago).
The implication is that regional law schools in the Rust Belt are more likely to be serving a stagnant regional economy. This is not particularly attractive to prospective law students. See Henderson & Morriss, Student Quality as Measures by LSAT Scores: Migration Patterns in the U.S. News Rankings Era, 81 Ind. L. J. 163 (2006) (documenting that students will trade down in USN ranking to attend a school in large and growing corporate legal market). So this is likely the "echo chamber" effect playing itself out in conformity with larger systemic trends affecting the legal market. See Stake, supra.
Some might argue that the declines are the result of academic snobbery against the flyover states. If so, this prejudice must have arisen with avengence during the last 20 years. Or, less plausibly, some might argue that these schools have had a harder time recruiting or retaining sufficiently talented, productive faculty. Remember, this is the same survey that boosted Detroit College of Law a record +59 jump when it made the 90-mile move to East Lansing ... which is very much in the Rust Belt. That +59 point jump probably had a lot more to do with a Big Ten brand than the production of high quality faculty scholarship.
After we consider starting position, the Jeff Stake "echo chamber" effect, scandals, name changes, conservative branding, and basic measure error inherent in any survey work, how much unexplained variation can we really assign to the true changes in the academic quality of law schools? To my mind, virtually nothing.
Below is a scatterplot that places Predicted 2012 Academic Reputation (based on starting position, name changes, conservativism, scandals, and Rust Belt status) against Actual 2012 Academic Reputation. [click on to enlarge.]
The top three outperformers in the new model are Alabama, Georgia State and Stetson. Was their secret sauce a better faculty, or the echo chamber aided by sunny weather, a growing southern economy, and/or cheap in-state tuition in an era of rising costs? Regardless, congrats!
Here is a very big puzzle. Law faculty are comprised of very smart people, yet we organize virtually all of our hiring, strategic plans, and marketing efforts in an effort to make gains in a reputational game that cannot be won. Why? That is a very big topic and, alas, the basis for a future post.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
September 06, 2012
Why Are We Afraid of the Future of Law?
Below is my most recent column in the National Jurist [PDF version]. Although 100% targeted at law students, I think lawyers and law professors might find this topic interesting. [Bill Henderson]
Richard Susskind is a famous British lawyer and technology consultant who travels the world giving speeches on how the legal industry is on the brink of a fundamental transformation. Because his topic is change, Susskind’s ideas are quite controversial among lawyers. But as a futurist, he has a pretty good track record.
Back in 1996, in his book The Future of Law, Susskind predicted that e-mail would someday become the dominant method for lawyers and clients communicate with each other. Because the Web was still a novelty limited to universities and computer aficionados, Susskind’s comments were viewed as reckless and unprofessional—lawyers would never rely on such an insecure method to communicate with clients. Yet, 16 years later, lawyers are daily lives are comprised of an endless stream of emails coming over their desktops, laptops and smart phones.In June of this year, I attended the LawTech Camp in London, which is an event that attracted a wide array of entrepreneurs and lawyers who are figuring out ways to use technology to improve the delivery of legal services and products. There were three major themes that underlie many of these innovations.
One is ability of machine algorithms to replace people, particularly when it comes to finding information. For nearly all of the 20th century, a substantial part of lawyer’s job was to know where to find the answer to the client’s legal problem. A Google search can now find many answers faster than traditional legal research methods. And company’s like Legal Zoom, which are well capitalized by nonlawyers, are selling do-it-yourself solutions for wills, trademarks, forming a corporation, or other legal needs.
A second theme of the conference was the emergence of a global supply chain in which price sensitive, labor intensive work is increasingly flowing to destinations like India. There is now sufficient technology infrastructure in place to make the integration and training of Indian lawyers a highly cost-effective decision for many international businesses. This means that to garner a good living, U.S. and U.K. lawyers need a substantial competitive advantage over Indian-trained lawyers. Deep expertise in the most complex areas of law is one strategy, but the technologists are constantly trying to find ways to standardize and systemize the expensive work that lawyers would prefer to do by the hour.
A third theme of the conference was the value and importance of developing a deep, trusting relationship with your client. This part has more to do with our humanity than our technology. It means investing our own time to understand our clients’ business and doing a better job seeing the world through their eyes. This gives us the best opportunity to use our legal expertise to solve their legal problem in a way that makes us indispensable. Thus, as our client grows, we have the opportunity to grow with them.
Fittingly, the keynote speaker for the LawTech Camp was Richard Susskind. Many of the innovations and trends being discussed throughout the day were identified by Richard Susskind in his 2008 book, The End of Lawyers? Richard had earned the right to be taken more seriously than various other commentators on the legal industry.
For the last two decades, Susskind’s work has required him to stand in front of skeptical, disbelieving, recalcitrant audiences and telling them things they don’t what to hear—some variant of “we need to change and adapt to survive.” Over the years, I have heard Susskind speak several times, and I can vouch for the attitudes he inevitably encounters.
Yet, I was quite dismayed when I heard Richard say, “I talk to many audiences, nearly all of them skeptical and conservative. And consistently, the most conservative audiences are law students.” That’s right, law partners, in-house lawyers, associates, law professors, and bar association officials, as disbelieving as they might be, are all more prepared to hear Susskind’s message.
This raises a critically important question – why? Susskind suggests that many young people entered law school with an image of their future careers based on idealism and pop culture. If their careers are going to dramatically different than these preconceptions, surely their professors would have told them. (New flash: few law professors track the changing structure and economics of the legal profession; they tend to be specialists in narrow areas of substantive law.) So law students are the least emotionally braced for a different future—one a lot more challenging and uncertain than they imaged.
As a law professor who routinely presents evidence of a changing legal marketplace, including Susskind’s work, to 1L students, I can personally attest to the student blowback. The students find this information “depressing”—at least initially. Yet, my students tend to differ from older audiences in how quickly they reconcile themselves to this new fact-based reality. Although their idealized version of the legal profession is tarnished, they also see the opportunities to create something that is new and important that resonates with their values.
As my experience at the LawTech Camp makes clear, there is tremendous creative ferment taking hold in many corners of the legal profession, albeit the safe and established legal brands are not leading the way. So that is our dilemma—in the year 2012, there is no conservative path that will take most law students to where they want to go. Every option has risk.
My advice? Invest time understanding the intersection between law and technology. Read Susskind’s books. Subscribe (via email or RSS feeds) to the many publications in the Law.com network, including the Law Technology News, and the ABA Daily Journal (most content is free). Some terrific blog include Law21, Strategic Legal Technology, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, or The Legal Whiteboard (my own blog). Identify some of the new, innovative companies and ask for informational interviews—don’t be shy. These companies will be flattered. And remember the advice followed by countless successful people: “luck is when opportunity meets preparation.”
September 01, 2012
"Application, Discipline, Focus, Repetition"
For the Labor Day weekend, I thought I would post this video of Henry Rollins, an American singer and artist who has continually reinvented himself since he left his job as a manager of a Hagen-Daaz ice cream store in 1981 to become the lead singer in Black Flag.
The point of posting this video is not to glorify Henry Rollins, but to consider, on its own terms, the life narrative of one interesting person. Rollin's formula of "application, discipline, focus, repetition" sounds a lot like deliberate practice. Based on my own research, I have broken this process into two steps:
- Identifying the core elements needed to be become an expert or master in a specific domain -- Jeff Lipshaw was alluding to this in his post on Donald Schon and reflective practice;
- Practicing, through thousands of hours of effort, on elements that one lacks in order to move along the continuum to mastery. Number 2 works best when the person has the benefit of feedback and coaching. Of course, they also have to be willing to do the work.
For an individual, it may not be necessary to formally break down the core elements into specific pieces. Instead, these pieces can be obtained iteratively through trial and error and reflection. I think this is what Rollins has done. It is a formula that works for one highly determined person. But can it be scaled?
As an educator, I am interested in making the components of practice mastery more explicit and transparent--this is step #1 above. To accomplish step #1, we still need to do foundational research that deconstructs the careers of outstanding lawyers into sets of specific skills, abilities, and competencies--i.e., the things to be practiced. (Notice I said "sets" -- outstanding lawyers often master different domains.) At present, the Shultz-Zedeck Effective Lawyering study is the only solid published research that is even adjacent to this topic.
Once these components of effective lawyers are identified--i.e., a law school identifies the skills, abilities and competencies it wants to develop over the course of three years--we move to step #2. This step raises complex questions of order (which competencies first, which come second, etc.) and pedagogy (best and most cost-effective methods) and measurement (how do we know we have made progress?). I think the answers would have to come iteratively, through trial and error.
Any educational institution pursuing this strategy would have to commit itself to studying and continuously improving the educational process. For law schools, this would be new. At the vast majority of law schools, we mostly teach legal knowledge, we don't articulate our intended educational outcomes, we let students pick their courses ala carte with minimal guidance, and we don't engage in serious measurement. But we could. I think this is the next great frontier--an enormous opportunity for any law school willing to think for itself, to experiment and to change. The data needed would come from one's own alumni, ideally supplemented with data sharing within a law school consortium.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
July 02, 2012
The Inferiority Complex of Law Schools
[by Bill Henderson, originally published in The National Jurist, March 2012 (PDF)]
For over a century, law schools have suffered from an inferiority complex. We have masked it well, but its consequences are finally coming home to roost. Like most psychological conditions, our lives will be much better and healthier when we deal with its root cause. Further, when law students understand this history, they will better understand the changing nature of the legal economy. They can even help law schools with the cure.
In 1918, the renowned economist Thorstein Veblen famously quipped, “the law school belongs in the modern university no more than a school of fencing or dancing.”
Veblen, like many of his academic colleagues, believed that universities should be citadels for science-based learning and the production of knowledge. Law, in contrast, was a trade. Indeed, in the early 1900s, a substantial portion of the practicing bar had obtained their skill and knowledge through office apprenticeships. When law schools did begin to appear, they were just as likely to be proprietary law schools operating out of a local YMCA than to be part of an established university.
Despite the skepticism of the academic class, there were a host of practical reasons for universities to create (or, in some cases, acquire) a law school. First, the law was the primary occupation for many elected officials, which held out the prospect of reflected glory. (Veblen recognized this motivation, which compounded his worry.) Second, a handful of law schools at prestigious universities had begun adopting the so-called case method, which purported to find objective legal rules and principles akin to a scientist working in a laboratory. The perceived rigor of the case method provided at least a veneer of science. Third, with their large lecture halls filled with tuition-paying law students, law schools made money.
So, notwithstanding the doubts or hostility of academics like Veblen, the university-based model of legal education became the norm. To further legitimate law as an academic discipline rather than a trade, university administrators often sought out a dean from Harvard or another elite school to signal their commitment to the “modern” case method. Eventually entire faculties were populated by elite law school graduates; in turn, the practitioner-as-teacher became a dinosaur and gradually withered away, eventually reemerging as the adjunct professor.
Once fully inside the university, law schools adopted university norms, including promotion and tenure based on scholarly production. Today, the tenure files of law professors are evaluated using the same basic standards of peer-review that apply to all university professors. And a hierarchy has emerged, based largely on the natural sciences, which runs roughly as follows: theoretical scientist (think Einstein); lab scientist (testing Einstein’s theories); applied scientist (the engineer who uses lab-based insights to solve real world problems). Most law schools tend to have an analogous pecking order that runs: tenured/tenure-track faculty, clinicians, adjunct/practicing lawyer.
Yet, echoing the concerns of Veblen, on one crucial level the parallels between science and law inevitably breakdown. The work of university researchers continues to exert tremendous influence on the skills and knowledge of engineers and other applied scientists. For example, when Einstein discovers the theory of relativity or Francis Crick and James Watson discover the structure of the DNA molecule, entire fields of science can be revolutionized – more to the point, the work of applied scientists is simplified and made more potent. Quantum leaps, often born in a university environment, are possible. Indeed, some might call it the goal.
The same paradigm shifts occasionally happen in the social sciences. For example, in the last forty years, the research of psychologists Dan Kahneman and Amos Tversky have forced a re-conceptualized of the most fundamental principles of economics, giving rise to an applied field of behavioral economics that has immense practical value. (Note: some academic economists are still in denial over this development.)
In contrast, a large proportion of judges and lawyers readily admit that the writing of law professors—the enormous output of student-edited law journals -- has little or no relevance to their daily work. Instead, a more practice-oriented literature has emerged in so-called “bar journals.” These articles are written by and for practicing lawyers.
During the 1970s and 80s, the eminent researcher and educator Donald Schӧn began to notice how professional schools, including law schools, had maladapted themselves to the conventions and expectations of modern universities. In the muck and chaos of real world problems, practitioners such as lawyers, architects, urban planners, or psychotherapists seldom have the benefit of new scientific knowledge that can solve the complex needs of their clients. Although the work of lawyers can often be highly analytical, it is also very human and influenced by emotion, culture, politics, power dynamics and a host of other seemingly random idiosyncratic factors. (For a more complete discussion, see Schӧn, The Reflective Practitioner (1983); Educating the Reflective Practitioner (1992)).
Schӧn gradually came to the conclusion that the science-based hierarchy of the university could not be usefully applied to a substantial number of professional schools. This is because professionals who achieve practice mastery (the $1000/hour technician; the trusted legal advisor; the highly successful plaintiffs’ lawyer; the brilliant government regulator, etc.) are essentially crafting novel, ad hoc solutions to extremely complex problems. To do this effectively, they must draw upon their own immense reservoir of learning, practical experience and intuition. University learning from law, economics, psychology, history, anthropology, and the hard sciences are mere inputs to the lawyers’ solutions. Almost like alchemy, these inputs are combined with decades of exposure to novel fact patterns. The outward manifestation is what some might call expert intuition.
All of this analysis leads to one conclusion: Legal practice mastery is a mixture of a science and art. Further, the artistry component is the most crucial element for solving real world problems, and it can only be obtained through an iterative process of experience and reflection. Unfortunately, we law professors are prone to reject, or at least discount, this formulation because it undermines the perceived gravitas of our academic learning and accomplishments.
Personally, I would rather be on the right side of history than the right side of a self-interested argument. I am ready to concede that many of my former students, who have been practicing for several years now, are much better at solving practical client problems (purely legal or a mix of legal and human) than I am. Yet, as a law professor, I still think that I can add value. But only to the extent that I connected to the world of practicing lawyers and thus can fashion frameworks and broker relationships that can help my students more quickly make sense of the muck and chaos of their future professional lives.
Outstanding lawyers are a public good. They help solve society’s most serious problems. I want to do my part to make more of them. It is time that the legal professoriate shakes off the inferiority complex that the practice of law is mere trade. At the same time, we also need to build bridges with the practicing bar – particularly our own alumni. This re-allocation of time and priorities may come at the expense of some the arcane scholarship that we now produce in order to maintain perceived parity with other parts of the university. At this juncture, we have the gravitas and experience to make the transition. Our students will be the primary beneficiaries.
June 29, 2012
What is the "Ignite" Format of Presentation?
Ignite rules are simple: a talk with 20 PowerPoints that advance automatically every 20 seconds. Six minutes to make your point. It you don't know your material, it's a disaster. If you are prepared and you understand how to connect with your audience, you educate and inspire -- in a word, you ignite the audience.
Below is an example of Ignite done very well, by Michael Bossone (Miami Law, co-founder of Law Without Wall). This presentation just got a rousing ovation at the Law Tech Boot Camp in London. I saw it happen live. It was awesome.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
May 23, 2012
What is the Answer to High Student Debt?
- The New York Times asked it today, and suggested that "full disclosure" is the answer. That is just crazy -- students are going to college or graduate school so they have the skills and knowledge to do complex things like conduct a reliable cost-benefit analysis.
- In the column in The New Yorker titled "The Cost of College," Nichlas Lehman, Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, wonders whether higher education is suffering from a pricing bubble. Then, remarkably, he goes on declare that "higher education is actually underpriced .... in the top-tier schools" because "price is determined by what people are willing to pay." [Yes, and the highest bid will be accepted right before the bubble bursts.] Regardless, Lehman is pleased that both Obama and Romney will try to keep interest rates low on undergraduate Stafford loans -- which just kicks the can down the road without imposing any pricing pressure on colleges or universities.
- In contrast to Lehman's conclusion that top-tier schools are a bargain, in the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin consults with two policy wonks from conservative think tanks who argue that institutions like Harvard are gouging students due to misguided federal subsidies and tax policies that shelter massive multi-billion dollar endowments. This analysis is long on blame but short on solutions.
- As noted in my prior post, entrepenuer Peter Thiel is offering $100K fellowships for students to "stop" their formal education to pursue ideas that may contribute to viable new businesses. Love the idea, but it is a tiny niche solution.
My own belief is that educational quality is the next great frontier. If we can put a man on the moon in the 1960s, surely with four years and $120K we can turn a reasonably able and motivated 22 year old into a critical thinker who can reliably communicate, collaborate, gather facts, assess data, lead, follow, and approach problems with both empathy and objectivity. Further, improving quality changes the debate from "how much does higher education cost?" to "how much is higher education worth?" And if the worth is sufficiently high, both public and private employers would be willing to subsidize it in exchange for preferred access to graduates.
The only barrier is institutional focus. To make this happen, a university has to take an "Apollo Project" approach that focuses purely on education. After figuring out the "how high" and "how fast" possibilities, an institution could then focus on controlling costs through process improvements and building modules. First quality (worth), then cost. This is not trade school education; this is about fully exploring human potential.
The first university to break into this space will have a profoundly disruptive effect the rest of higher education. The future of higher education is education.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
April 26, 2012
A New Tool for Law Student Professional Development
In retrospect, it looks pretty simple: (1) find a convenient time for 1Ls, (2) provide pizza, (3) invite successful lawyers to talk about their careers, (4) have law faculty gently moderate, and (5) implement a modest attendence requirement tied to a 1L substantive course.
This is the format for Indiana Law's Career Choices program, which is an important part of our 1L Legal Professions curriculum. The goal of the Career Choices program is to provide students with a more realistic and structured view of modern law practice. The 2011-12 edition, which concluded earlier this month, consisted of 45 lawyer speakers spread over 24 lunchtime programs.
Why does this matter? If students have better information and have a broader view of the profession--created through a balanced and well structured programming--they can make sense of the world more quickly and in turn make better decisions related to their own professional development. Immediate benefits include:
- Shedding stereotypes of what lawyers do--often stereotypes created by the media and pop culture). Almost everything looks different from far away--sometimes better, sometimes worse. Although the up-close view takes time and effort to acquire, it is the view needed for reliable decisionmaking.
- Developing a more sophisticated vocabulary that enables students to adopt and mimic the language of practicing lawyers. This subtly impresses and flatters practicing lawyers. It signals engagement. And it opens doors.
- Broadening minds to consider practice areas, internships, and training opportunties that students would otherwise overlook.
- Improving student time allocation. And time is students' single greatest asset!
Because the benefits of better decisions compound over time, there is no better time to start than the 1L year. Over the medium to long term, this simple action can elevate the entire law school community.
The Career Choices Program evolved over a period of years. It is only one piece of Indiana Law's 1L Legal Professions curriculum, but it is critically important to professional identity formation. Cf. Sullivan et al., Educating Lawyers (2007) [aka The Carnegie Report] (discussing legal education's neglect of the professional identity apprenticeship).
The value of the Career Choices program can be separated into two buckets:
- What the program looks like today--let's call it Career Choices 4.0
- The evolutionary process that produced the current program.
Career Choices 4.0
The success of the Indiana Career Choices program is the result of the joint efforts of the Indiana Law faculty, our two deans of students, and our world-class Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD). Indiana Law's OCPD (staff photos below) deserves special credit. Among their many other responsibilities, they handle all the complicated event planning logistics so that it is an enjoyable experience for both lawyers and students. According to Law School Survey of Student Engagement data, Indiana Law's OCPD is objectively one of the best career services offices in the nation, at least as judged by law student respondents.
In 2011-12, the Career Choices program consisted of 24 programs featuring 45 law school graduates (approximately 85% Indiana Law alumni). It kicked off on the first day of class in January. It was then followed by a program virtually every Thursday and Friday for the next twelve weeks, excluding spring break. Career Choice forums are scheduled well in advance and space is limited (capped at ~40 to 100 student depending upon room size). To attend, students sign-up through OCPD using Symplicity, a widely used career services software.
Career Choice events were typically organized around practice settings (i.e., small firms, big firms, in-house lawyers, personal injury lawyers, prosecutors, public defenders, state agency lawyers, public interest lawyers, business and nonprofit executives, etc.) and substantive areas (IP, sports and entertainment law, international law, family law, bankruptcy, etc.) An ideal panel would be one where the practitioners moderately disagree with each other -- this is why we like having more than one lawyer in at a time. When lawyers disagree, students have to engage their minds in order to make sense of the differing perspectives.
The lynchpin of the Career Choices program, however, is its integration into the Indiana Law's Legal Professions course, which is required 4-credit course taught in the second semester of the 1L year. The course covers traditional professional responsibility and the law of lawyering. But it also focuses on the structure of the legal profession itself. The course is explicitly designed to get our students to think about their future careers in a realistic and structured way. Course requirements include:
- Five in-person informational interviews
- Team based projects
- Personality and motivation asseessments
- 360 degree peer feedback
- An end-of-semester reflective essay.
Career Choices is another required element. Every 1L is required to attend at least three Career Choice events. At Indiana Law, we tend to focus on data so we can track evidence of progress, or lack thereof. A ID scanner (placed between the door and the pizza) is how we track attendance. It is very fast.
This year, we have 230+ 1L students spread across four sections of the Legal Profession class. The average 1L attended 5.5 Career Choice events. Well over 60% of the class attended more than the mandatory three sessions, which is pretty remarkable. 1Ls are a notoriously harried group of students. Every hour spent in a non-mandatory activity is one hour less that can be devoted to beating the 1L curve. Ask any law school career services professsional how difficult it is to get students to invest in voluntary professional development -- 600 hours in a single semester for 1L is a miraculous feat. Now that learning is compounding for the students' and, indirectly, IU Law's benefit.
Here is another statistic: we served 2,800 slices over the course of the semester. 1L students are busy and relatively cash-strapped. By putting these events at a time when students would ordinarily break for lunch, we are making it easy for them to give the programs a try. For the last several years, an alumnus has paid for the pizzas. He believes it is a small price to pay to get students in the door. No studennt learning can take place if students never show up.
When guest speakers are available to stay for dinner, the same alumnus also pays for dinners for speakers and three to five students. Over the years, I have attended roughly two dozen of these meals. Many times students tell me that the insights shared over these dinners are among the most memorable and fulfilling learning experiences of their 1L year.
The Evolution from 1.0 to 4.0
Remember that I said that the Career Choices formula looks so simple "in retrospect."
The most important lesson we learned from Career Choices experience is that any significant success in programmatic or curricular changes is going to require several iteratives until the program's progress is reasonably near its ambitious goal. Fortunately, we were sufficiently committed to the mission that we built feedback loops and retooled accordingly. Here is some the trial and error:
- Respect student preferences. During the 1.0 version, we had four mandatory sessions at 4:30 on Thursday afternoons -- and as a result, we were leaning heavily into a headwind. A minority of students resented the imposition on their time; and this negativity affected the general mood of the students, which created an uphill battle for even the finest guest speakers. It is easy to conclude what students "ought" to value. But such judgments don't improve the situation at hand. The smart person accepts; the idiot insists.
- Impact of size on participation. We learned through experience that 1Ls go silent when they are in a big, full auditorium. Even the gunners shut down. Holding speaker quality constant, smaller groups and more intimate venues produced dramatically more student engagement. This meant that four or six Career Choice events, though cheaper and easier to manage, was not going to work. The program had to be bigger to be successful.
- Choice matters. Students can have pretty fixed ideas on who is worth listening to. This is a constraint. But when students can exercise some choice on speakers, they show up with a positive attitude and higher levels of curiosity. These positive experiences bring them back voluntarily --now, voluntary participation is well beyond the minimum. The choice created the way for buy-in.
- Timing really matters. Pizza is not enough to get students to give up a lunch hour. The winning combination is lunch plus content plus a time period when students are not scramblng to read for class. Moving from Wednesdays to Thursdays was huge for student participation--albeit it was less convenient for faculty. We learned that faculty need to bend as much or more than students.
- Faculty involvement. Faculty involvement (or lack of involvement) sends a strong message to students on what is important. Career Choices has been a required element of the 1L Legal Professions curriculum since 2009. But this year, Legal Professions instructors served as the moderators. This enables us to bring the practitioner themes back into the classroom and tie them into our discussions of legal ethics and professional development. Many times faculty attended just to hear the speakers. If I am in town, I am there. Students noticed.
Last week our OCPD/instructor team debriefed on the 4.0 version. This discussion was substantially informed by student feedback. Some improvements for version 5.0 include (1) a better mix of young versus old lawyers, as the best panels had often someone five years out with someone 20 to 30 years out, (2) a more standardized format that permits lawyers to tell their stories but also ties their experiences into specific themes in the course, and (3) careful attention to diversity, something that our students really care about.
Finally, the biggest surprise our Career Choices program has been the reaction of its guest speakers. Although a typical guest speaker's day might include a lunch-time program, meeting with OCPD and faculty, two hour long informational interviews with students, and a long dinner, invariably the lawyers have more energy at the end of the day than the beginning. If you think about it, it makes sense. Lawyers seldom have a time to reflect on their careers to discern meaning and priorities. Career Choices provides them an entire day devoted to just that. Knowing how lawyers react to the program makes it much easier to ask them to participate.
At Indiana Law, the success of Career Choices has enabled us to consider more ambitious goals for the future. 5.0 will be better.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
April 14, 2012
What is Law Without Walls? Why does it matter?
I am spending the weekend in Miami at the Law Without Walls (LWOW) ConPosium. What's LWOW? Not an easy question, but here it goes: LWOW is a completely new forum and methodology for teaching, learning, collaborating and -- most importantly -- spurring innovation in legal education and the legal services industry. Twelve U.S. and foreign law schools are involved, with Miami Law taking the lead. LWOW is part law school class, part idea laboratory, part networking venue, and part case competition. I struggle in vain to find an adequate metaphor.
What's a ConPosium? It's LWOW's annual penultimate event. Over the course of the weekend, students present their "Projects of Worth" to a large audience of students, lawyers, law professors, regulators, business executive and entrepenuers. The presentations are evaluated American Idol-style by a panel of experts, including -- yes -- a handful of venture capitalists. Thanks to the efforts of LWOW founders Michele DeStepano and Michael Bossone, the weekend also is an amazing aesthetic experience -- a theater of sofas and overstuffed chairs, inspiring music, multi-media stimuli, and a nonstop train of cleverly presented ideas from students, professors, judges and the audience.
As an educator, the most exciting facet of the LWOW format/methodology is that it pressures law students to be creative and economically viable. (Understatement: these topics are generally not covered in law school, especially the latter). Not all ideas are good; and good ideas by themselves are not enough. As the venture capitalists tell us, nine out of ten good ideas fail due to lack of execution. To survive, hard questions have to be asked, and the answers provided have to be realistic and accurate. And then there is follow-through. That requires passion.
LWOW is a grand experiment. 20 years from now, the DNA of a lot of innovation in legal education and legal services will be traceable to the seemingly impractical ideas that were trial-ballooned here. And one or two may be brand names in a few short years. So cool.
[Posted by Bill Henderson]
February 01, 2012
Legal Education's Ninety-Five Theses
Brent E. Newton, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, has posted a legal education reform piece on SSRN, entitled The Ninety-Five Theses: Systemic Reforms in the American Legal Education and Licensure [Hat-tip TaxProf]. Judging by his title, Newton is hoping to spur a Reformation of legal education, akin to what Martin Luther did for Christianity in the 16th century. If that is his agenda, I will not stand in his way.
According to his GULC web bio, Newton is Deputy Staff Director of the U.S. Sentencing Commission; prior to that, he had a distinguished career as a public defender. Newton is not the only adjunct-practitioner who has forcefully challenged U.S. legal education. In 2008, Jason Dolin (solo practitioner, adjunct at Capital), published Opportunity Lost: How Law School Disappoints Law Students, the Public, and the Legal Profession. In 2010, Steve Bennett (partner at Jones Day, adjunct at Fordham) published a law review article entitled, When Will Law Schools Change?
Law professors rarely engage with these critiques; to acknowledge these critiques, some might argue, is to give them oxygen and legitimacy. I think this approach is a huge mistake. Any enterprise interested in long-term success cares about the perceptions held by its stakeholders -- and adjuncts are definitely in that group. In times of crisis, we need friends, not enemies. Further, Newton, Dolin and Bennett are serious people and very capable lawyers. If you leaf through these articles, you'll see that they read like Brandeis Briefs against the legal education establishment. The authors present thoughtful, fact-based, and (albeit occasionally) trenchant arguments on why we, speaking as a legal education insider, should change.
Simple question: Can any of us identify a single historical example in which the establishment reformed itself because a critic effectively marshaled facts and logic to reveal the errors of its ways? Institutional change doesn't happen that way -- facts and logic are no match for a few thousand egos and pious rationalizations for why others should change, but not me.
The common storyline for institutional change is failure, with the rise of other institutions that better address the social, political and economic needs of stakeholders and broader society. A less common narrative is institutional adaption, thanks in part to (1) the self-interest and survival instincts, and (2) the serendipity of timely, brilliant leadership. (Does the legal academy have a few hundred great leaders?)
That said, Newton, Dolin and Bennett may be on the right side of history. Because of the overproduction of law school graduates and their high levels of debt, we are now at a point when survival for a large proportion of law schools can no longer be taken for granted. "What cannot go on forever, won't." Herbert Stein, economist.
Prediction: In the next few years, some law schools will change and thrive. Others won't and they will fail. There will be nasty recriminations and gnashing of teeth. A few at the very top will throw dice and decide not to change. They will survive, but the innovations taking root in the rest of the law school hierarchy will make them look like anachronisms. It will be a slow decay. In the meantime, some aspects of the Post-Langdellian paradigm will look a lot like the suggestions made by Newton, Dolin and Bennett. In twenty years, maybe sooner, the revolution will be over. Finally, Newton et al. will get a must deserved footnote.
[Posted by Bill Henderson]