Sunday, August 30, 2015

Am I Really Having Too Much Fun?

I have a loving and intelligent older sister who sent a very caring personal message to me this morning warning me that my Facebook posts make it look like I am having too much fun. Her observation echoed a similar one made by my dean just a few months ago. Both comments made me question my use of social media.

Here’s the deal. Facebook is my personal space and I try to post there once a day. The posts are usually about fun, personal things such as my children, activities, funny moments, travel, etc. I occasionally post professional achievements, publications, or experiences there, but they are far less frequent. Those, and only those, I post on LinkedIn, which I consider to be my professional presence on social media. On LinkedIn, you will never see a picture of me teaching myself to play hockey or talk about weekend hikes.

That is the purpose of Facebook or Instagram (or whatever personal social media platform you choose). As I explained to my dean, no one wants to see a picture of me sitting in front of my computer staring at a blinking cursor, which is what I do most of the time. Instead, I consciously search for and share the aspects of my life that other people might enjoy seeing and reading or may be inspired by. But apparently in doing so, I am giving the false impression with that one photo or update a day that I am having too much fun. And one thing we can never have is professors, especially law professors, having TOO. MUCH. FUN.

Maybe I should start posting updates at the end of the day on word counts, editorial battles, legal analysis, and scholarship, especially dealing with child pornography, which is the subject of my current research. It may be boring and depressing, but at least then people would know that most of my time on most of my days is spent on serious professional endeavors, which is actually, a more accurate portrayal of my day-to-day life.

Alternatively, I could become circumspect, a human monolith. I could retreat back into the 20th century (in my mind at least) and pretend that there was no such thing as social media. I could deny that it has become one of the most formidable relationship- and community-building tools in today’s world, and eschew its use. That approach could protect the privacy of our family and our children and ensure that no tweet or status update could come back to bite me years from now.  

But then again, I am an extrovert, a social creature. Academia is not a natural environment for people like me. Being locked up in an office with a computer, piles of paper, and mostly our own thoughts is an exhilarating but unsustainable place--unless we can connect socially. Social connection is our oxygen. Fortunately, social media allows us to connect without ever having to turn our eyes away from that blinking cursor. Thus, each day I reach out and try to connect with my family and friends (many of whom are also colleagues and former students) to exchanges updates, photos, likes, comments, and messages. In doing so, I can laugh, breathe, and smile, and hopefully, end my day going to bed thinking thoughts about things other than little children being raped.

The price of admission to this land of mental cotton candy? One happy post a day.  

Does it mean I am having too much fun? Only if you believe everything you read on Facebook. 

August 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Katrina in Mississippi: Loss, Law, Love and Food

Ten years ago today, I was an associate at Watkins & Eager in Jackson, Mississippi.  I was in the quiet office early to finish a brief, with a window open on my monitor showing the weather radar and Hurricane Katrina's front pushing onto shore. I finished the project and went home to batten down the hatches with my wife, Jennifer, and Betsy, our eight month old. 

Katrina was still a Category 1 when it hit Jackson, about 150 miles inland. Katrina pummeled south Mississippi and the Gulf Coast.  We had one death in our neighborhood, from a falling tree.  We were out of power for just a week and lost some big branches in our yard, far more fortunate that hundreds of thousands of our neighbors to the south.  (Including my dear friend, Al Sturgeon, now Dean of Students at Pepperdine University School of Law, who lost his home and pastored the congregation on the coast in whose church building he and his family had to live for weeks).

Our church, Meadowbrook Church of Christ in Jackson, became our primary hub of relief activity, distributing tons of material every day to shelters without Red Cross Support, donated by thousands of people from across the country. We served on some chainsaw crews that helped dig out little towns in the pine woods of southern Mississippi, weeks after the storm but still before FEMA arrived.  The Mississippi Bar mobilized young lawyers for disaster legal relief, and I worked my first-ever pro bono cases for some tenants who had arrived to find themselves displaced by landlords who needed some place to live. 

Among the destruction, my favorite moment was the morning after the darkest, quietest, hottest night of our lives. Our neighborhood was wrecked, and we knew we would not have power for a long time. The restaurateur next door, the pastry chef across the street, and all the others on our block realized that we all had a whole lot of food about to go bad. We dragged our gas grills into the street, under downed power lines, around fallen oak trees, next to splintered telephone poles, beside crushed cars, amid piles of debris, and we had the most hopeful, most delicious, most neighborly cookout Belhaven had ever seen. Before we all left for our respective refuges, we gathered in our street to eat, to comfort, to commiserate, to love on each other and to bear witness to the mighty storm.

I have a map of Mississippi on my office wall.  It’s my home, however long we live far away, and, in all my growing up and lawyering in Mississippi, that moment in the middle of Manship Street with our neighbors was the quintessential manifestation of hospitality, neighborhood, community and potluck love.  

Mississippi’s motto is Virtute et Armis, by Valor and Arms, but valor wins every time, especially when it’s valorous, gritty hospitality, hope, optimism and good food in a sweltering August morning.           

August 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 28, 2015

How To Be An Experiential Learning Expansion Cheerleader and a Traditional Clinician?

Alex Scherr’s thoughtful piece this week on what an externship should be struck home for me, and in an internal way.  I can’t wait for Part II.  As a clinician I am really proud of what I do.  We all are, or we wouldn’t keep at it.  But I also face an internal struggle at times, a struggle of how to advocate for and expand experiential learning through law clinics and/or externships, whatever they may be. 

I am a traditional clinician, for the most part.  By this I mean that I teach in and direct a live-client clinic where I enroll up to eight to twelve students a semester and supervise them on cases.  That’s a pretty standard way of doing it.  While that may be the case, I also value my creativity to tinker with that established model, mainly so that I can do more subject-wise, project-wise, and expand the number of students in my clinic.  My tinkering has involved, for example, out-sourcing some supervision when appropriate by volunteer supervising attorneys or community partner attorneys, and relying more on technology projects (instead of cases) for the development of pro se resource projects and developing student learning. 

My overall goal is simple – I want to expand the number and type of experiential learning opportunities so that as many students as is practical get a valuable and meaningful experience.   The ABA implicitly with the new requirement for six hours of experiential learning feels the same.  My struggle is this – how do I as a clinician advocate for that expansion?  Is it only through the development of law school clinics, or can I also advocate for externships?  By advocating for externships am I turning my back on law clinics?  By only advocating for traditional law clinics, am I turning my back on viable and meaningful externship opportunities for law students?  How do we handle situations when there are really great externships that exist – especially when they seem to duplicate some of the clinical work that we do?  Do we keep doing that work?  Are we worried that students might choose the externships over us because of the different ABA standards and the expectations involved?  What can we do when externship-type offerings are being relied on as cheaper equivalent alternatives to what we do?

I know that there are substantive differences between clinics and externships, not only in how we teach and manage them but also because of what the ABA requires.  Yet as a group, how do we handle this as clinicians?  What do you personally do?  Does anyone else face the same struggle?

August 28, 2015 in ABA Standards, New Clinical Programs, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New York State’s Pro Bono Scholars Program Provides Expanded Opportunity for Clinical Experience

In 2014, New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge, Jonathan Lippman, announced a new program called the Pro Bono Scholars Program[i] (“PBSP”). The PBSP allows students in their last semester of law school in New York to work in a full time pro bono placement in lieu of attending classes.

Student participating in the PBSP follow a modified calendar for their final semester of law school. Participants prepare for the New York bar exam in January and early February and take the exam in late February, instead of taking the July bar exam with the rest of their classmates. After the bar exam, participants spend the entire final spring semester, between 450-500 hours, in a law school experiential learning program in which they provide pro bono legal assistance and participate in closely-related classes at their law schools.

Once the program ends, if the participants have passed the bar exam, they receive expedited review of their applications to the bar. Then, if they have successfully completed the PBSP and all other graduation requirements, those students then become eligible for admission to practice in New York in June or shortly thereafter.

When the program launched in the Spring semester of 2015, all New York law schools participated. Some schools placed students in pro bono divisions of law firms, while other schools placed students in public interest organizations. Yet, other schools used the program to expand their clinical offerings.

At Columbia Law School, we took four students who mediated federal agency employment discrimination cases through the New York District Office of the EEOC. We structured the program such that students mediated cases Monday through Thursday in our clinical facilities on campus and spent Friday at the EEOC office with the judges.

This structure allowed the students to shepherd cases from the beginning through the end. While at the EEOC the students were able to access cases soon after they were filed and assigned to a judge. The students would then screen the cases to ensure they met the income requirement for the PBSP. Then, the students consulted the EEOC judges to further screen for other signs that the cases would be good for resolution through mediation.

Once cases were assigned for mediation, the students worked with our mediation clinical faculty to make contact with the parties and develop the cases until the mediation session or sessions occurred. The students, along with a mediation faculty member, then mediated the cases and performed any necessary follow-up with the parties and judges.

The PBSP in general is something I hope other states emulate. It provides students with the chance to immerse themselves in the practice of law, making them more viable candidates in the job market. And for those with jobs already secured, it gives them a head start on their legal training—lack of which has become a common complaint in hiring. Additionally, because participants get expedited admission to the New York bar, they also enter the market without bar passage as a lingering question for employers.

The benefits of the program are not entirely the students’. The program also provides hundreds of hours of legal service to members of society who might otherwise be under- or unserved. It also provides agencies or non-profits with an opportunity to alleviate the strain on their own resources in serving the public.

Of course, this model is not without controversy. Some have argued that increasing access to justice should not mean that those who most need assistance are getting the least experienced help available.

That argument is partially why Columbia chose to keep the program in house through our mediation clinic. With our clinical professors spending forty hours training the students and then providing close supervision through each mediation, the students were able to mediate a significant number of cases, while simultaneously getting to see seasoned mediators mediate along side them. This also meant that mediation parties were reaping the benefit of having their case heard by experienced professionals in addition to student mediators.

This model is one that states may consider adopting. But, in the meantime, individual law schools ought to consider tailoring some sort of program like the PBSP to their particular needs because there are benefits for both the school and the students. There are no faculty members better situated than clinical faculty to spearhead such an initiative because they may already have clinical programs in place that are a perfect fit which would allow even more students access to clinical education.


August 27, 2015 in Clinic News, New Clinical Programs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Should an Externship Be? Part I

Recent action by the A.B.A. Council on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar defers a critical question for clinical education and sets the stage for sharp conflict over externships. No, I do not refer to the pending question about “paid externships.” The question is more fundamental: what should an externship be?

In fairness, the dispute over paid externships did generate this question. For several years, the Council has come under increasing pressure to repeal the ban on credit for compensated work, as currently embodied in Interpretation 305-2. After voting against repeal in the summer of 2014, the Council was required by the House of Delegates to revisit the question. This past winter and spring, the Council’s rule-drafting sub-committee, the Standards Review Committee, issued a new proposed rule for the Council to consider:

        "Proposed Interpretation 305-2
        "A law school that grants credit for a field placement for which a student receives compensation must demonstrate sufficient control of the student experience to ensure that the requirements of the Standard are met. The law school must maintain records to document the steps taken to ensure compliance with the Standard."

This proposal requires law schools to demonstrate “sufficient control of the student experience” so that “the requirements of the Standard are met.” The proposal assumes that Standard 305 actually has requirements for what the student experience in an externship should be.

Yet Standard 305 says little about the student experience. Its requirements include the following:

  • A student should receive credit commensurate with the time and effort the student invests and with the “quality of the educational experience.”
  • A faculty member should evaluate each student’s educational experience, using a stated method of evaluation.
  • The school should state goals and methods for the student experience and must articulate how the course requirements achieve those goals using those methods.
  • The school should invest instructional resources that are adequate to satisfying the course’s goals.
  • The school should maintain regular contact with site supervisors to maintain the “quality of the educational experience.”
  • A student should have “opportunities” to reflect on their experience.

These provisions require that the student have experiences of undefined quality in a course that has non-specific goals and methods. This is educational procedure without teaching substance, small surprise to those who have had to fit their externship courses into the airless limits of 305 during the site inspection process.

The A.B.A. can do better. In fact, it has done better. Standard 303 defines what a course must offer to qualify as an experiential course; Standard 304 does the same for a course to qualify as a “clinic” or a “simulation.” These Standards require courses to address specific content, such as “doctrine, theory, skills, and legal ethics”; to use specific teaching techniques, including repeat performance, formative feedback, and student self-evaluation; and to make specific demands on teachers, including faculty who supervise, give feedback, and teach a classroom course.

Whatever the merits of these requirements, none of them must apply to externships. Yes: if a law school wants an externship course to qualify as “experiential,” the externship must satisfy Standard 303. Yet Standard 303 does not require what Standard 304 requires for clinics and simulations, including specific kinds of experiences, supervision of and feedback about repeat performance, and a classroom course. In fact, it remains possible for a school to give students credit for externships that do not qualify as “experiential courses” at all, precisely because Standard 305 requires so little.

In effect, the Standards continue to allow schools to create procedurally-generated externships that fit the slim contours of Standard 305, with little to no meat on their bones. Such a course needs to address no specific content, to use no specified teaching techniques, and to ask little of faculty and site supervisors, beyond participation, availability, and an evaluation at the end.

In early August, the Council rejected the proposed interpretation and has asked for new proposals, specifically a review of Standard 305. There is a solid chance that the Council will now address the more fundamental question: what should an externship be? Should Standard 305 now include more substance and less process? Should externships receive a definition comparable to Standard 304’s definitions of clinics and simulations?

The next installment of this blog post discusses these questions. In the process, I will ask: should we require of externships the same things that we require of in-house clinics? Or can we now regulate externships in accord with their inherent virtues as learning and teaching?

August 24, 2015 in ABA Standards | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Social Justice Advocacy Lives On

Julian Bond and Louis Stokes both passed on this week.  Both men were renegades in the civil rights movement, working for justice in the trenches in the South from the time they could board a bus and speak their truth.  Yesterday I heard a story on the radio recounting a quote from President Obama to Louis Stokes shortly after he was elected President of the United States: "I am here because of you."  

Louis Stokes founded the Congressional Black Caucus, but on the road to his political success he was blocked from votes  by his white colleagues, and suffered the slings and arrows of being a non-white leader in this country.  And not just in the segregated 1950's and 60's South--Stokes was turned away from his own Congressional parking garage by Capitol police in 1991.  He also led the Congressional Committee that investigated the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.   

Julian Bond co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, and years before that he founded Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.  Bond was a leading student demonstrator at Morehouse College, and years later the leader of the NAACP.  During his tenure at the NAACP, I saw him speak at the National Press Club while I was a law student and was captivated by his calm toughness and his tough calmness. I wanted to be like him, a tireless social justice advocate. 

But I'll never be half the advocate that Bond and Stokes were. This world doesn't require me to do what they did.  This world doesn't turn me away from my office parking garage because of the color of my skin.  It doesn't beat me into submission on the streets I walk down or sit in or run through.  My feelings of irony and angst about the deaths of these two remarkable advocates in one week are fine, but they are not really important.  It's really just a somewhat embarrassing combination of white guilt and navel-gazing, if I am honest.  But this post is about to end. And I ask you to remind yourself, as I strive to remind myself as I close, that we can in fact serve their legacy.  We cannot walk in their shoes.  But we can pick them up, dust them off, and carry those shoes as we walk our own walk for social justice.  They paved a path with their pain and their triumph, and they expect us to keep it clear.  Thanks for the trailblazing, gentlemen. We'll take it from here.  

August 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (33)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Neil Hamilton on Professional Formation with Emerging Adult Law Students

Prof. Neil Hamilton at University of St. Thomas in Minnesota is a leading voice in professional formation in law schools and in the scholarly evaluation of our enterprise of educating effective professionals.   I met Prof. Hamilton first at an intensive weekend program on professional formation through St. Thomas's Halloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions.

Prof. Hamilton has published a new article synthesizing data the developmental stages of emerging adult students and their ownership over their own professional development.  Prof. Hamilton discusses how his new ROADMAP curriculum (ABA Books, 2015) can help students move forward developmentally to create and implement a written plan for professional development.  The ROADMAP curriculum won an ABA Gambrell Award last month. 

Here is a link to the article, Professional Formation with Emerging Adult Law Students in the 21-29 Age Group: Engaging Students to Take Ownership of Their Own Professional Development Toward Both Excellence and Meaningful Employment, forthcoming from JOURNAL OF THE PROFESSIONAL LAWYER.  

Here is Prof. Hamilton's abstract for the article:

Four factors have converged that require law faculty to add an additional foundational learning outcome, focused on helping each law student to take ownership over her own professional development, to the traditional emphasis of legal education on technical competencies such as doctrinal knowledge, legal analysis, and legal research and writing.

First, we have a new understanding of the importance of the development of each student toward an internalized ethic of responsibility and service to others, plus an internalized commitment to professional development toward excellence. Second, there are both new data to consider on the developmental stages of students who are emerging adults in the 21-29 age group and new data that a substantial proportion of law students are at an earlier stage of taking ownership over their own professional development than where the faculty and the profession want them to be. Third, we have a new understanding of curriculum that is effective in helping each student take ownership of her own professional development. Fourth, both potential applicants (in deciding which institution to attend) and the federal government (concerned about student loan repayment) are increasingly emphasizing gainful employment outcomes.

Taken together, the four factors are impelling law schools and the legal profession to define a professional formation learning outcome where each student takes ownership over creating and implementing a written plan to use her time in law school most effectively for her own professional development toward both excellence at the competencies needed to serve others well and, ultimately, meaningful employment.

Recent empirical research on emerging adults in the 18-29 age range indicates their dominant motivation is to achieve self-sufficiency, which in turn has two principal sub-elements: (1) accepting responsibility for yourself; and (2) becoming financially independent. Legal educators (both faculty and staff) must help each student to understand that in order to achieve self-sufficiency, the student must take ownership to create and implement a written plan for his professional development toward excellence at the competencies needed to serve others well (this is the key learning outcome) across the whole arc of his or her studies, career, and life. This paper analyzes new assessment data demonstrating the effectiveness of a new curriculum designed to help each student take ownership over her professional development.

August 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

TFARR Statement from the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education

Thank you to Prof. Jayesh Rathod, 2015 Chair, AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education, and the executive committee for good work on this statement and these defining issues.

Here is a link to the statement on the AALS website.

Here is the statement in full:

AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education

Statement of Position Regarding the State Bar of California Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform (TFARR) Experiential Education Requirement

The Association of American Law Schools Section on Clinical Legal Education (“AALS Clinical Section”) applauds the Trustees of the State Bar of California for unanimously adopting the proposal of the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform (“TFARR”) to require applicants to have completed 15 credits of experiential education prior to sitting for the California Bar. The AALS Clinical Section is made up of hundreds of legal educators, including many in California who have dedicated their professional lives to preparing students for the practice of law through in-house clinics, externships, and other experiential educationalofferings. In recent years, we collectively and individually have been involved in efforts to ensure that our JD students are more ready for practice, consistent with calls for such training made by bar associations, alumni, prospective students, and fellow educators. Many of us have participated actively in state bar associations and on bar committees, allowing us to appreciate the goals of both the legal academy and state regulators. With these experiences and perspectives in mind, we believe that the TFARR proposal, which encourages the integration of 21st century lawyering skills into the core of legal education, presents a significant opportunity to better prepare students to meet the demands of clients upon admission to the bar.

As the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) and other stakeholders have noted, the legal profession has lagged far behind every other profession in regards to required pre-licensing professional skills education. Numerous studies over the past four decades by the American Bar Association (ABA) and others have decried this lack of practical training and called for reforms to the required law school curriculum.1 As a result of these reports, the ABA recently increased the number of credits of experiential education required of JD students from 1 to 6 credits.2 While this represents a significant increase for law students, it corresponds to less than 8% of the JD program. It is also 4 times less than the practical training required of social workers and nurses and more than 6 times less than the practical training required of physicians.3

A.   The Proposal Reflects an Increased Demand for Experiential Opportunities

Law students also have been clamoring for more experiential education opportunities. The greatest evidence of this demand is the criteria students rely upon when choosing a law school. These choices have become ever more important for law schools facing declining application numbers. A Law School Admission Council study in 2013 found that clinics/internships were among the most influential factors for prospective students in deciding whether to enroll at a given law school, behind only location and employment of graduates (77% of respondents considered location to be a very important factor and 68% classified clinics/internships as very important).4 In fact, experiential offerings were more important to these prospective students than the cost of the institution, the personal attention they would receive, a school’s ranking, and the reputation of faculty. In addition, a survey conducted in 2004 of recent law school graduates found that opportunities for professional skills training (including clinical courses and legal employment) were rated as the most helpful law school experiences in successfully transitioning to practice.5 Surveys conducted by the National Association for Law Placement in 2010 and 2011 likewise found that lawyers in the private, government, and non-profit sectors attached great value to their law school clinic experiences.6 Thus, from the viewpoints of prospective law students, recent graduates, and more senior lawyers, practical training is vital.

B.   The Proposal Permits Great Flexibility and Aligns with the ABA Rules

We are aware that TFARR took these factors into account and that it crafted and revised the final proposal over several years during which it worked closely with California law schools, practitioners, and the judiciary, and engaged in extensive information gathering, including numerous opportunities for public comment. The result is a proposal that gives law schools guidance on developing and evaluating experiential learning offerings while simultaneously giving schools flexibility to design these offerings in ways that suit particular institutional missions, student bodies, and relevant legal markets. First and foremost, the proposed California bar rules provide a “safe harbor” for courses that comply with the revised ABA standard, thus allowing ABA-accredited schools to offer programs that simultaneously satisfy both requirements. Under both sets of rules, virtually any topic taught in a real-client or simulated setting will satisfy the ABA and the California Bar, including interdisciplinary courses developed in collaboration with other professional schools. Skills learned can be as diverse as law practice management, client counseling, practical writing (including transactional writing), and pre-trial preparation.

In addition, under the California rules, the settings in which these skills can be learned include traditional courses, clinics and externships, uncredited clerkships, and apprenticeships. The proposal even allows for portions of a course to count, such that a 3-credit course that uses a contract-drafting exercise for 1/3 of the class time could count the 1-credit module towards the 15-credit requirement. Moreover, in a nod to schools experimenting with their first-year curricula, all but the first 4 units of first-year legal research/writing courses can count towards the 15 credits if they are taught through real or simulated client work. Finally, summer work that is uncredited is specifically allowed to count for up to 6 of the 15 required units. Thus, there are virtually limitless permutations of course, field, and uncredited work that law schools can offer to their students in order to meet both the ABA and California rules.

Moreover, the emphasis on skills (as opposed to substantive practice areas) provides schools the ability to tailor offerings to the local marketplace (e.g., oil and gas offerings in Texas or maritime law offerings at coastal schools). The result is that virtually any legal experience a student gains, whether in a law and policy reform organization or at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, can potentially count towards the 15-credit requirement. This provides a great deal of room for innovation, allowing institutions to experiment with the delivery of skills and professional training and draw upon generally under-utilized resources such as alumni.

As with any new undertaking, there will be a period of adjustment as schools begin to grapple with both the new ABA requirements as well as state requirements like those proposed by TFARR. TFARR has wisely taken this adjustment period into account by offering exemptions for licensed attorneys from other jurisdictions and allowing post-graduate apprenticeships (which can be paid) to meet the 15-credit requirement. This will ensure that schools have plenty of time to audit and/or ramp up their offerings, that lawyers who had not planned to practice in California still have access to that state’s bar, and that students have every opportunity to learn about and meet the requirements prior to their first bar admission.


Overall, the TFARR proposal presents a significant opportunity to improve the overall competency of new admittees to the State Bar of California. As students enter a rapidly changing and expanding legal marketplace, it is incumbent upon the Bar to ensure that law graduates have the doctrinal knowledge and professional and interpersonal skills needed to effectively and ethically represent clients in California. The TFARR proposal would advance this important obligation of the Bar and help legal education fulfill the demands of our students, their future clients, and the legal profession.


*. Disclaimer in accordance with AALS Executive Committee Regulation 1.4: The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of each member of the Section and do not necessarily represent the position of the Association of American Law Schools. ^

1. The ABA’s 1979 Report and Recommendation of the Task Force on Lawyer Competency: The Role of the Law Schools (“the Crampton Report”) proposed that law school curricula pay more attention to providing professional experiences. The ABA’s 1983 Task Force on Professional Competence shared this perspective and recommended that the ABA make enhanced law school training in lawyering skills a top priority. A decade later, the 1992 ABA Report of the Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap (“the MacCrate Report”) recommended that law schools “develop or expand instruction” in fundamental lawyering skills and professional values; and the most recent, the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education Report and Recommendation reiterated the “calls for more attention to skills training, experiential learning, and the development of practicerelated competencies” and noted that the “balance between doctrinal instruction and focused preparation for the delivery of legal services needs to shift still further towards [the latter].” In addition, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching publication, EDUCATING LAWYERS: PREPARATION FOR THE PROFESSION OF LAW (2007), found that courses that included real-life experience with lawyering could teach students all of the relevant professional competencies: intellectual, practical, and formation of professional identity and judgment. ^

2. ABA Standard 303(a)(3). ^

3. Robert R. Kuehn, Pricing Clinical Legal Education, 92 DENVER L. REV. 1, Appendix A (2015) (citing MOLLY COOKE ET AL., EDUCATING PHYSICIANS: A CALL FOR REFORM OF MEDICAL SCHOOL AND RESIDENCY (2010); and COUNCIL ON SOCIAL WORK EDUC., EDUCATIONAL POLICY AND ACCREDITATION STANDARDS, at Educ. Policy 2.3., Accreditation Std. 2.1.3 (2012)). ^

4. The survey ranked factors based on the percentage of respondents who rated each factor as “4” or “5” on a 5-point scale, with “3” as “somewhat important” and “5” as “extremely important.” See Law School Admission Council, LSAC REPORT, May 2013, at 12. ^




August 18, 2015 in Current Affairs, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOBS: Pittsburgh Tax Clinic

Via the Faculty Appointments Committee at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law:

Tenure or Non-tenure Stream Position.  The University of Pittsburgh School of Law invites applications from entry-level or lateral faculty for one position beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year.  The appointment is expected to be either at the rank of assistant, associate or full professor, if tenure stream, or assistant clinical, associate clinical or full clinical professor, if non-tenure stream. This recruitment seeks to fill particular curricular needs in one of two ways: either a tenure-stream or tenured professor teaching in one or more of the following areas:  Tax, Property, Estates and Trusts, or, alternatively, a clinical professor outside of the tenure stream who would direct our Tax Clinic and teach one or more courses in Tax Law. Preference will be given to those with an interest in experiential learning.

The University of Pittsburgh is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, marital status, sex, disability, age, gender identity or sexual orientation in its hiring.  In furtherance of our strong institutional commitment to a diverse faculty, we particularly welcome applications from minorities, women, and others who would add diversity to our faculty.  Recruitment is subject to approval by the University’s Provost. 

Contact:  Vivian Curran, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, 3900 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15260.  Email:  Email submissions are preferred.   The deadline for applications is October 15, 2015.

August 18, 2015 in Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Welcome to the Legal Profession

Early in my teaching career I had the honor of welcoming our first-year students throughout a one-week orientation, and on the last morning, I was directed to “inspire them.” It was a task that proved as daunting to me as it was rewarding, and in preparing for the start of another academic year, it serves as the inspiration for my post today.

To the new law students and those of us privileged to guide their journey, I offer these thoughts as a welcome to the legal profession. First and foremost, remember that being a lawyer is an immense responsibility.  Never forget that people trust you with their lives and their livelihoods when they choose you as their lawyer.  They deserve the best that you can give them – as a lawyer and as a person.  How you treat your clients has a rippling effect on the people they know, their communities, and the judicial system.

Who do you want to be as a lawyer? . . . That is the most critical question as you embark on this career. As you consider that question, I want to share with you a story about a lawyer who graduated from William & Mary, one who laughed that he was an important part of the law school because he was part of the foundation holding up the top three-fourths of his class. Despite his less than stellar GPA, he went on to develop a very successful law practice, using his amazing legal mind.  More important than that, though, was the effect he had on clients’ lives, not just their cases.

For instance, a client of his wrote, “He was a special person.  He seemed concerned about his client’s health and well-being, along with their legal cases.” Another client wrote, “He had a tremendous heart and always had the time for us whenever we needed it, despite his busy schedule.” A third client noted that “He guided me through many complex legal issues over the past four years – he was a great attorney and an occasional sushi lunch buddy.” Clients spoke of him being a “truly a kind and caring man.”

Through kindness and respect for others and the profession, he was well regarded by other attorneys too. One wrote, “I have had cases against him over the past few years and have always thoroughly enjoyed his company.  The legal community has lost a hard worker and a kind gentleman.” Another wrote, “He was a great, honest and good man.  He was kind to others, and compassionate in how he approached the practice of law.  In short, he was a gentleman.” Another opponent noted that he “always enjoyed having cases against him.  He was well respected, a hard worker and a joy to be around.  He will be missed in the legal community.” One attorney noted that he “never knew him, but the lawyers here in our office who had cases with him always volunteered that he was one of the good guys.”

Lastly, a William & Mary faculty member and fellow member of the Bar explained that she “frequently receives inquiries from people who need an attorney, but have no money to pay one.  In such circumstances, I have again, and again, and again, contacted him and asked him to help.  He has never said “no.”  When people ask me what kind of law he practices, I say “free law” because he is so generous with his services.”

A young student who externed with him noted, “I look to him as my role model.  He is not only the type of lawyer I want to be, he is the type of person I want to be.  If I achieve that, in my mind I will be successful.”[1]

It starts now, as you begin law school – what kind of lawyer do you want to be?

As you embark on this profession, you will be entrusted with the keys to the judiciary. With that privilege, you are making a commitment to the highest standards of professional behavior, behavior that includes self-enforcement and required competence. Once you make this commitment to higher standards of behavior – the likelihood of getting caught when you break the rules is 100%, because you will always know if your actions violate the tenets of our profession. Life as a lawyer breaching these standards will be empty and unrewarding. Law is an honorable profession, one that you should be grateful to become a part of and proud to maintain as honorable. 

Challenge yourself to make this career about more than a quest for things material; such a quest will prove empty and unrewarding.  Entering this profession brings with it the responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves through the complexity of the judicial system. Our country is filled with an overwhelming number of people who need your skills and your passion just to preserve the life, liberty and happiness that the rest of us often take for granted. There is a devastating need for legal services in this country; I hope you will not leave the cry for justice from the most vulnerable among us unanswered.

Don’t forget why you came to law school.  Write down those reasons today as you embark on this journey, and look to them often during law school.   If you remember those reasons each morning, this will be a career that sustains your spirit.  Welcome to this honorable profession; we need you.



[1] The lawyer was Ken Roberts, William & Mary Class of 1990, my late husband, who died suddenly after turning 41.  He was the kindest, most compassionate and generous lawyer I have ever known.  He inspired me during his life, and he continues to do so today, as an attorney who regularly made a difference in the lives of others.

August 17, 2015 in Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

JOBS: University of Iowa Law School Field Placement Program Director

Via the Faculty Appointments Committee at the University of Iowa College of Law:


Law School Field Placement Program Director

                 The University of Iowa College of Law is seeking a full-time faculty member to direct the College's Field Placement Program, including teaching and administrative responsibilities. Iowa’s Field Placement Program offers quality educational experiences that immerse students in the performance of legal work in government or non-profit agencies, criminal prosecution or defense offices, state and federal judges’ chambers, and international law offices and agencies, as well as in a newly approved in-house corporate setting. In addition to earning credit for their field work, students in field placements participate in faculty-taught classes designed to maximize students’ learning.

                 The Director’s teaching responsibilities are multifaceted. These responsibilities include teaching students enrolled in a field placement class, as well as teaching on-site supervisors and law faculty supervisors how to use experiential pedagogy to translate students’ field experiences into substantive, reflective, and engaged learning.

                 The Director’s administrative responsibilities include developing and managing relationships with legal service providers who partner with the law school to provide quality field placements. In addition to cultivating existing relationships and to identifying and developing new relationships with legal service providers, the Director will take the lead in advising students on complying with new experiential learning admission requirements for various states’ bars. The Director will also assist in developing appropriate law school responses to the ABA’s experiential learning standards. The Director is expected to substantively engage in national dialogues regarding field placements and other experiential education.

                 Required qualifications include a professional portfolio that demonstrates the effective teaching of law students or other adult learners and a background in experiential learning pedagogy. Candidates must hold a J.D. degree, have a strong academic record, and have at least five years of law-related professional experience after law school. Candidates must possess strong communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills. The successful candidate must have been admitted to a state bar and, if not already a member of the Iowa bar, become so within 12 months of accepting the appointment. (Before applying for the position, out of state candidates should review Iowa Court Rules 31.12 and 31.13.) The Director will be eligible for a clinical faculty position or other non-tenured/non-tenure-track form of faculty status, to be negotiated commensurate with qualifications and experience.

                 Confidential review of applications will begin immediately and continue until an appointment is made. To ensure full consideration, applications should be received by 10 September 2015 but applications will be considered thereafter until the position is filled.

                 Please apply by submitting a cover letter, resume, and the names and addresses of at least three professional references to: Faculty Appointments Committee, College of Law, The University of Iowa, Iowa City IA  52242-1113.

                 THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply and will receive consideration for employment free from discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, religion, associational preference, status as a qualified individual with a disability, or status as a protected veteran.

August 15, 2015 in Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Reflections On The Similarity Of Teaching Goals In Clinical And Non-Clinical Classes

Over the past few years, I have been thinking a lot about ways that clinical and non-clinical teaching are connected. It started with an assignment I got from the AALS Clinical Section to help with a program for the national meeting on how non-clinical teachers might use and are using clinical methodology in their classes. But whether we can use similar methodologies or whether non-clinicians can borrow some of what clinicians know about teaching in their classes is different from whether we are teaching toward the same goals. Perhaps some of my questions come from my familiarity with the goals clinicians have, which we have been expressing for a long time. Clinicians did not need ABA Standard 302 or 315 to tell us that we should be setting out explicit learning outcomes and provide formative and summative assessments—we have been doing so more explicitly that I am familiar with non-clinical teachers doing the same. We can roll them off—among other goals, I want my students to learn to learn from practice; to learn to understand their clients’ goals and to learn to see and consider the value of their clients’ and their collaborators’ view of the law and facts; to practice intentionally and effectively; and to work as a team with other professionals and with their clients. I have wondered how clinical teaching goals like these mesh with what might be taught in a non-clinical class limited to substantive law, and whether our learning goals are and could be the same.

This fall, I have been given the opportunity to consider this first hand as I cross over for the first time to teaching a non-clinical class in poverty law. It is part of Temple’s curricular requirement that students take a class writing serial short papers, a requirement designed to help students learn to express themselves in writing to legal and non-legal audiences in a concise manner. As such, it is a little “skillsy”. However, it also designed to give students in-depth substantive knowledge on a particular subject matter. I found myself describing the following goals, among others: leaving the class with a working knowledge of the law and how the law connects to other laws; developing critical analysis skills to see issues from many sides and why another might view the law differently; writing effectively; understanding the role of the lawyer not just as an observer of the law but as a player who can identify strategies for change; and understanding the needs of a client group and particularly a legally under-served one. It strikes me that many of these goals are quite similar to ones that I would have for my clinical students.

That some of these goals are similar implies that both clinical teachers and non-clinical ones have things in common and also that it would make sense to think through whether some things can be taught in clinics that have traditionally been taught in non-clinical classes. For example, I teach a community lawyering clinic in which among other things we help people with welfare benefits. Could I teach poverty law through a clinical setting where instead of writing papers, we were working with poverty laws more directly? Couldn’t I achieve the goals of learning substantive law, critical analysis, teaching writing, and considering multiple legal strategies for legal work in my clinic? I think I do! My clinical students would not gain the depth of knowledge that they might by reading legal thinkers in the area and might not get the same breadth of coverage. However, wouldn’t it achieve my course goals?

I would be interested to hear from clinicians who are veteran teachers of non-clinical classes about how they see the goals of the two teaching methods as different.

August 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

In Critical Praise of California's TFARR Rules

At Law School Cafe, Prof. Deborah Merritt of Ohio State has an excellent post on the virtues and values of California's proposed new bar admission requirements:  Kudos to California. 

I wrote previously about Pepperdine’s proactive approach to these rules.  Our faculty has adopted these standards as graduation requirements beginning with the Class of 2017, in advance of the rules' formal enactment, to ensure that our students and our school are prepared and to accomplish these objectives well and eagerly.  We are actively building capacity in our program of clinical education, adding clinics, creating practicums, developing new experiential opportunities across every law school center, examining our curriculum, and building a flexible, compliant program to generate pro bono opportunities for students.   The new rules have given us great incentive to innovate and adapt, with a renewed focus on professional formation, and to live into our own mission.  

I spoke on a panel last year at Pepperdine’s Judicial Clerkship Institute with my dean, Deanell Tacha, who served on TFARR, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of New York who has led the way on these reforms, and Justice Jon Streeter, formerly president of the California Bar and chair of TFARR.  We discussed the experiences students should seek and receive to prepare for elite practices and judicial clerkships, and the judges agreed with the dean and the clinical law professor that students need more courses and experiences that will generate wisdom, creativity, humility, integrity, diligence and excellence, within a pervasive understanding of lawyers' roles and obligations to society. Justice Streeter expressed confidence and optimism that the rules will be adopted.  

August 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Reflections on Teaching Reflection

“Not to sound cheesy, but I came to law school because I want to help create a more just society.”  Yes, a student actually made this statement, and the phrase that kept rattling around my head was “Houston, we have a problem.”  I acknowledge that becoming a lawyer is an arduous and academic endeavor and that we must teach analytical skills that our students will need to maneuver the complexities that exist within the law.  However, if students are taking away the message that pursuing justice is “cheesy,” I think our profession may be in some serious trouble.

I teach a reflective seminar at Gonzaga University School of Law that runs concurrently with students’ externship experiences.  The idea is to dissect the experiences that students are having in the field. Our discussions cover a wide-range of subjects, but typically, we discuss the issues that are most pressing for our students…the realities and imperfections of our system, the importance of effective communication, the importance of asking for help or clarifying an assignment, that collaboration often produces better results, how to face our mistakes....While most of my students humor me, I know that a significant portion of them fail to see the value of a class that is based solely on the opportunity for reflection.  Of course, how can I blame them?  Our curricula are heavily focused on the development of technical skills and proficiencies. Opportunities for reflection rarely exist and are usually not integrated into doctrinal and skills courses. Additionally, although supportive, many of my colleagues see the course as “touchy-feely” and lacking in academic rigor.  Reflection is often devalued in law school, and I think this can be the start of the devaluation of our profession ideals. 

My students are easily able to engage in a thorough, meaningful, objective discussion about the skills that excellent lawyers possess, such as empathy, diligence, self-awareness, and authenticity, but when I ask them to assess these qualities in themselves or to consider how they will emulate them in the future, the resistance (and occasionally the eye-rolling) starts mounting. 

I am privileged to have the space, forum and opportunity to muse about these issues and pose questions to my fellow clinicians.  So, I’m curious.  How do you get your students and colleagues to value the process of reflection?  How do we use opportunities to reflect as a catalyst for remembering that the pursuit of justice is not “cheesy" but a beautiful, worthwhile and, at times, even an attainable aspiration?

August 10, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Practiced Resiliency: Joyful Jazz that drives out a Well Founded Fear

If you do nothing else, click on this Vimeo clip and go to the 3:55 mark for Simon Wettenhall’s sparkling trumpet solo.  Simon plays in Woody Allen’s band most Monday nights in New York at the Café Carlyle.  Don’t worry, there is a tie-in to resiliency to come – the power of music, self-care, camaraderie, striving for excellence, and also that it’s okay not to be so excellent.

Like so many other clinicians during the summer, I have to be a lawyer again when there are fewer students around.  On Monday, I first chaired an asylum hearing.  The hearings usually are not so bad, it’s the prep that’s the killer.  Trying not to re-traumatize the client too much, worrying about the inevitable pimples on any case, discovering new evidence late in the process, hearing new and disturbing details of harrowing incidents of death and torture (hopefully more on that in an upcoming blog).  I internalize too much, do not (cannot) get enough sleep, wake up at 3 am and then think that if I’m not sleeping, how well are the clients sleeping?  And so I worry about them, too.  And then I try mostly unsuccessful strategies to get back to sleep (counting sheep, listening to classical music, moving to the couch). 

Serendipitously, I had booked tickets for a concert the night before the hearing.  The court hearing got scheduled after I had the tickets, otherwise I would not have gotten them out of thinking I would need to be preparing for court.

The concert? Woody Allen and the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band at the State Theater in Minneapolis. Why did we go?  Because of the trumpet player, Simon Wettenhall

Back to the concert in a minute.  Simon works not only as a musician, but also an accredited immigration representative for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) in New York, representing asylum seekers and other immigrants.  Years ago when I practiced in New York for the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Simon and I would often find ourselves on the LIRR train out to the asylum office on Long Island. 

My students see Simon in action every August and every January, when I show the Well Founded Fear video in which he’s featured.  Back in the mid-nineties, Simon and I had the pleasure along with many others to collaborate with Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini as they filmed and produced the Well Founded Fear series about the asylum process.  [There is also a fun interactive website].  The title comes from the legal standard for asylum – a showing of a well-founded fear of persecution.

The feature length film, now available on-line at PBS, is best known to the public, but many immigration clinicians still make use of the training videos they put together afterwards.  I’ve created a 90 minute training sequence around the video of Simon’s client Lyudmila, a Jewish Refugee from Belarus, as that one story allows for an introduction to nearly every major issue in asylum law and practice.

So, back to the concert.  It was a great chance to see Simon, and the concert got a good review.  Having spent Sunday afternoon doing final prep for the hearing, I had found it difficult to concentrate on the music: I was replaying the direct questions in my head, reworking legal arguments, worrying about what could possibly go wrong, thinking about the small children depending on our team.  Fortunately, after 45 minutes, the music finally started breaking through the fog. The encore became a second set, and after the concert Simon exuberantly invited me and Susan backstage. Real live groupies, become had we!

I had not spoken with Simon in over 15 years, but we picked up where we left off, sharing current war stories.  Before too long, the conversation turned to how Simon manages to tour with two bands and maintain a law practice with HIAS.  In addition to exercise and Tai Chi (and another practice whose name I did not recognize and I do not remember), the music moves him and provides inspiration and energy for the challenging but draining work with the traumatized people with whom we are privileged to work.  Simon’s laughter and stories drove away the pre-trial stress like a cool evening breeze clearing away the stifling humid heat of soggy summer day.

There should be nothing surprising or revolutionary about that.  Simon’s joy and zest for life and profoundly good humor and generosity provide a testament to the physical and spiritual benefits of playing music regularly with people whose company you enjoy.  And at 65, Simon doesn’t sit on his talent – he shared that he’d been reading a number of PhD theses on breathing techniques to improve his already stellar performance.  

While Simon did not delve into much detail over beers backstage at the State Theater, he did mention learning proper relaxation and breathing techniques to improve his technique.  At the top of his thesis reading list is The Art of Playing Trumpet in the Upper Register by August William Haas.  Not surprisingly, exercise and diet, as well as proper embouchure, affect one’s range.  Practicing techniques like “yoga breath” and “wedge breath” get attention.  Best of all for the musical amateur are the interviews with notable musicians in the piece:

Bobby Shew credits Maynard Ferguson for showing him the book Science of Breath: A Complete Manual of the Oriental Breathing Philosophy of Physical, Mental, Psychic and Spiritual Development [p. 53].

Really? The “Oriental Breathing Philosophy of Physical, Mental, Psychic and Spiritual Development?” Now that’s some self-care.  And mention of Maynard Ferguson takes me back to my high school jazz band class in the 1970s, as he was the hero of all the trumpet players.  Here is one laugh-out-loud funky Maynard rendition in the upper register of “Gonna Fly Now” from 1977.

And here’s my scatological favorite: “Jon Faddis remembers, ‘Dizzy [Gillespie] used to say that breathing begins in one’s rectum (asshole) and that one should clench one’s butt cheeks together before playing.’” [p. 52]. For some serious upper register reach, here’s Faddis and Wynton Marsalis in 2014 and Dizzy in 1965.

So back again to the concert and 79 year old Woody Allen and the young(er) entourage around him.  I’m biased, but I would say that Simon is a really great trumpet player, and not a bad vocalist either.  Woody Allen, perhaps not so much, who even by his own admission in a pre-concert article said:

“I’m a terrible musician . . . . I don’t say this out of any false modesty. I never learned to read music or play correctly. I’m strictly an amateur New Orleans jazz fan.”

Allen certainly was not terrible, but the post-concert reviewer probably got it right: “In short, he was the musical equivalent of a Sunday golfer. But the weakest link was also the biggest draw. And there was an obvious sense of joy of these musicians playing together in this entertaining concert.”  That most of these guys have been playing together for a long time is a matter of public record – their 1995 tour of Europe is captured in the feature length film Wild Man Blues.  With a repertoire of over 1200 songs, the band worked without a playlist.

One watched the music move smoothly across the stage from solo to solo to duet to trio to full seven piece strong.  Simon was flanked by Jerry Zigmont on trombone on the left and Woody Allen on clarinet on the right. No intermission was needed or taken.  When the music reached its most frenzied, the physical effort required was obvious.  But the joy and fun flowed in such a way that while one musician performed, the others like us could sit back and enjoy (Allen folds his legs like he’s sitting in an easy chair, and not just when he’s listening). 

Decades of effort made it all look effortless.  Simon’s playing would recede almost completely into the background as he backed other solos; it would come out full bore in duets with Zigmont.  In his solos, I would start to think to myself “ok, that’s pretty good” and that’s when Simon would move from straightforward melody to an improvisational trip and I’d think “whoa!” out loud. 

And I still do not know how Simon quite manages to blend with Allen in duets.  Allen’s occasional flights of mostly-in-control squawking (dare I say it) would go careening down the alley and it was if Simon would calmly trot down after him and pull him back into the piece, catching him by the arm with a trumpet note that sounded exactly like the clarinet.

All of this is making me think that that it’s time to take my mediocre voice back to the University of St. Thomas School of Law Chapel Choir, in which I sang for about a decade before practice time changed to the hour right before my clinic class.  In her recent theological reflection on Jack Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure, Karen Bray shares that Halberstam calls on us “to be underachievers, to fall short, to get distracted, to take a detour, to find a limit, to lose our way, to avoid mastery” in our struggles for social justice.  Sounds just like my choral abilities.  Hopefully, Bruce Grosland the director will not be too sad to see me back.  And maybe I need to find that clarinet stashed away in the basement . . . .

So what does this meandering take us in terms of lawyer resiliency?  Performing and listening to music is good and [usually] healthy.  Exercise and mediation are good.  Having joyful friends in your profession is good.  Striving for excellence in your profession is good.  Being okay with being just okay at something is good, too.

August 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Back to School! Using Multimedia in Clinic Seminar

Every May, I intend on setting aside a few hours a week to plan new classes, flex my pedagogy muscles, walk on the wild side of tax-exempt organizations. Inevitably, I wake up one morning to the sound of back to school commercials and realize it is already August. I am sure some of you, like me, find yourselves kicking into high gear with the semester only weeks away.

On my August to-do list is utilizing more multimedia in clinic seminar. Clinicians are constantly exploring new ways to engage students and adapt to different learning styles. I love using small groups or quick write exercises to ease into complicated and sensitive topics. As for simulations, my students are always eager to ham it up as clients or hone their skills as lawyers. My biggest challenge is making the more technical aspects of the law interesting to students. I found that multimedia can be a great tool for teaching these areas. 

Each semester I teach an introduction to financial statements class that is essential for students. Many have never looked at a balance sheet, let alone the tax return of a multi-million dollar nonprofit organization. This is a golden opportunity! I can give these students the building blocks to comprehend any financial statement – a key skill for any transactional attorney. Yet every semester, the class failed to dazzle. As one student wrote in her course evaluation “I know we need to learn how to read a financial statement, but the material is really dry.” Touche.

So it was clear, I needed to liven up my financial statements class. The answer: Jon Oliver. Earlier last year Jon Oliver conducted a hilarious expose on the Miss America pageant’s claim to be “the world’s largest provider of scholarships for women.” In fact, analysis of the tax returns revealed that the amount of scholarship money actually awarded was a mere fraction of the amount claimed by the organization. I started class by showing students the Jon Oliver segment. The clip really helped set the tone for the class in an entertaining and engaging manner. First, it reiterated the importance of looking at financial statements to understand the truth behind an organization’s operations. How much is actually spent on programmatic activities? How much is wasted? Second, it raised important questions about nonprofit accountability. A 501c3 organization is subsidized by the taxpayers. Is this why we need to monitor them through public tax returns, restrictions on executive compensation, etc? What types of organizations would my students want to support? We spent the rest of class walking through the tax returns of two different nonprofits, comparing expenditures, executive compensation – reading between the lines to truly understand the way each organization operated.

For the curious, a clip of the segment is available here: 

Of course, if you plan on using media clips, you want to make sure you do so in accordance with copyright laws. What if you want to use a YouTube clip? What if you want to assign an episode of This American Life as homework? All of these are important questions that potentially raise copyright concerns. The attached guide outlines some best practices for using multimedia as part of your course. Most universities also have a general copyright use policy that should be reviewed in addition to the attached guide.

Download Best Practices for Using Media in the Classroom FINAL DRAFT %28Final PB Version%29

August 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, August 3, 2015

JOBS: Director of Experiential Learning at South Dakota

Via Associate Dean Tiffany C. Graham:

Director Position

The University of South Dakota School of Law may have an opening for a Director of Experiential Learning either at the Lecturer or Assistant Professor level.  It will likely be a 12-month position for the 2016-2017 academic year.  The position is still in development, but will be responsible for externships (in cooperation with the Career Services Office), internships, oversight and development of clinics, and the reorganization of the pro bono program.  It is likely that the experiential director will assist with a limited number of co-curricular events and/or be an advisor or co-advisor to one of the co-curricular activities.  Dependent on experience and expertise, teaching Law Practice Management or another substantive course may be negotiable. The successful applicant must be a licensed attorney in a United States jurisdiction (a state or the District of Columbia) by the time of the appointment.

Diversity and inclusiveness are values that are embraced and practiced at the University of South Dakota.  Candidates who support these values are encouraged to apply.  EEO/AA.

Applications must be submitted through the Board of Regents electronic employment site: Include on the website: application letter, vita, and names and addresses of three current references.  Inquiries about the use of the website may be directed to: Tiffany C. Graham, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, University of South Dakota School of Law, 414 East Clark Street, Vermillion, SD 57069; by email at; or by telephone at 605-677-5393.”

August 3, 2015 in Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Welcome the New 2015-2016 Class of CLP Writers

As we commence our second academic year at the Clinical Law Profs Blog, I am very pleased to welcome a new cohort of writers.   These talented law professors represent a wide array of law schools, regions, programs, practices, experience and interests.   Our goal this year is to increase content from more voices, to build dialog around the blog and its communities, and to contribute more fruitfully to the causes of clinical legal education, justice and good teaching. 

Please welcome our new writers:

Priya Baskaran of Georgetown,

Jennifer Davis-Oliva of Penn State (Dickinson),

Brian Gilmore of Michigan State,

Serge Martinez of New Mexico,

Faith Mullen of Catholic,

Spencer Rand of Temple,

Patty Roberts of William & Mary,

David Santacroce of Michigan,

Alex Scherr of Georgia, and

Shawn Watts of Columbia.


They join these veterans who continue their good work: 

Bryan Adamson of Seattle,

Kelly Behre of UC-Davis,

Warren Binford of Willamette,

Tanya Cooper of Pepperdine,

Meta Copeland of Mississippi College,

Jill Engle of Penn State (University Park),

Carrie Hagan of Indiana (McKinney),

D’lorah Hughes of Wayne State,

Inga Laurent of Gonzaga,

Kelly McTear of Faulkner,

Kelly Browe Olson of UALR,

Brittany Stringfellow Otey of Pepperdine, and

Virgil Wiebe of St. Thomas.


Thank you, readers, for a solid inaugural year.  

Please follow us at the companion Facebook group and on Twitter, @clinicallawprof


August 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)