Thursday, October 31, 2013

Staudt and Medeiros on Access to Justice and Technology Clinics

Professors Ronald W. Staudt and Andrew P. Medeiros (both Chicago Kent College of Law) posted on SSRN an article, entitled Access to Justice and Technology Clinics: A 4% Solution, that proposes engaging students in clinical experiences to build law practice skills that use technology to better serve the needs of clients, particularly low income clients.

The abstract states:

This article is targeted at the criticisms of the quality of legal education, criticisms that law schools fail to prepare graduates to succeed in the profession. We propose a modest improvement to the law school curriculum that may make graduates more capable to serve their clients. We propose that law schools add a new type of clinical course that teaches law students how to use and deploy technology to assist law practice. The changes we propose will affect about four percent of the average law school curriculum. If widely adopted, the changes we propose will help law students to learn core competencies needed in an increasingly technological profession, while they build tools and write content to help low-income, self-represented litigants overcome serious barriers in their pursuit of justice.

Specifically, we propose that law schools offer a new clinical experience — the Access to Justice Technology Clinic, or A2J Clinic for short. The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), in partnership with IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, has launched its Access to Justice Clinical Course Project to develop and refine A2J Clinics. In these courses law students build web tools and other interactive content to help low-income people achieve their justice goals. Courses of this type have been taught by several law schools during the past decade. This CALI initiative builds on those efforts, organizes faculty across the country into a team of collaborators, and establishes a structured process to share new insights, tools and curricula with all law schools.

October 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dean Frank Wu: So You Want To Be A Law Dean

This post is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law.

Here is my advice about becoming a law school dean.

So the reader can assess my advice for herself, as advice should be more personal than generic, allow me to open with an observation that establishes my worldview. I am a contrarian. Now is a great time to be a dean. I could not imagine circumstances better for someone serious about the prospect.

The reason is that there is an unprecedented opportunity to lead. The bench, the bar, the general public, even the President are demanding legal education reform. Many of those external observers are attempting to impose their own changes, and some are offering guidance without understanding what they are criticizing.

For all that, it is rare to be given such support for wholesale reinvention of institutions. As never before a leader who has potentially worthwhile alternatives will find an audience willing to consider her model.

Professors who would shy away from a deanship during downsizing of the entirety of all of legal education likely underestimate the tremendous stresses even during periods of growth. If you intend to last for any significant stint, the challenge is even greater: it is all too easy to make mistakes in market trending upward that you come to regret when the cycle turns.

First and foremost, have a reason for wanting to be a dean -- not any reason, but an irresistible reason. I refer to a private reason, not the public one. You need both. (In a later blog, I'll discuss the public reason in explaining how to land the job; that is not the same as why you want the job.)

"I'm at a point in my career when I'm ready to do this," is, if I may say so, not sufficiently compelling. It should not persuade you to pursue the opportunity any more than it will convince others to give it to you.

If you consider the proposition, being ready for a task implies you could do it and not that you should do it. An abstract readiness is not enough to sustain you through the real tests of the role. In my experience, feeling ready correlates inversely to actually being ready.

"Because I like to be in charge," is, however, a good motivation. That cannot be the lead statement in your application. But any individual aspiring to be a leader should be honest with herself. If even to her own secret self, she does not like to be in charge she will not last as a leader.

Being in charge does not mean you boss around others. It's the other way around -- they refer the problems to you.

Next, it's crucial to choose the right institution -- and for everyone there to choose the right dean. Both must get it right to avoid misery.

If you really want to be a dean and have received an offer, it is highly likely you will be a dean eventually and have other offers if you like. The better part of judgment is to withdraw from a search at an incompatible school, to compete again another day.

The pool of people who are qualified to be dean is vast relative to the range of persons who will fit the needs that place and that time. Deans are not fungible, because institutions are not identical. Neither deans nor institutions ought to be easily mistaken for another dean or another institution.

A dean who would be good for a particular school will not necessarily be good for another, and even a dean who would have been good earlier or who might be good later might not be right now. Schools face different problems: the central administration; faculty divisiveness; a structural deficit; lack of identity; rankings; and so on.

Arrow's Paradox should be remembered by all parties. It is unlikely that all of the stakeholders will agree. Kenneth Arrow received the Nobel Prize for proving that it's logically impossible to democratically aggregate preferences in complex circumstances. The campus that has a fight between the central administration and the law faculty, for example, cannot help but display diametrically opposed objectives in the dean search.

Finally, and perhaps even more importantly than having a reason for wanting to be a dean, make sure your partner or spouse shares your ambition or you have a relationship that will continue to thrive if she has to sacrifice. My wife reminds me from time to time that she has a job, and being the dean's wife isn't it. She's right in this as she is with much else.

The decision to be a dean is a joint decision. Only one person will occupy the office in formal terms. But anyone considering running for the office should appreciate its demands are constrained by neither place nor time -- "running for the office" is the right phrasing; being a dean is analogous to being a politician, because of the public nature of the occupation. Although that does not call for your spouse/partner to be standing alongside you at every campaign appearance, it does require you both to have similar expectations.

I love my job. I do not commend it to everyone.

October 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology" & MOOC's

There's a lot to digest in this Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology, especially for an administrator interested in supporting and encouraging faculty engagement with online learning. One initial reaction: I was not surprised to see that faculty are generally skeptical of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC's.  Based on my more than casual (but not exhaustive) reading, I offer four general observations about MOOC's:

First, as currently offered, we do not know whether MOOC's result in learning, or if they simply sort participants based on their pre-existing knowledge.  Do those who successfully complete a MOOC do so because they already knew (or mostly knew) the material, and the MOOC's assessments simply validate this? Or is there real learning going on?  Relevant to this point is a report that a majority of MOOC participants already have a post-secondary degree. 

Second, most of the MOOC's I have read about are in fields where most (perhaps all?) learning outcomes can be assessed through objective, computer-graded questions.  As computers are trained to reliably grade essays and give feedback, this could change the MOOC landscape.

Third, if MOOC's are to be used for credentialing or academic credit, schools must address concerns with verifying the identity of online students.  

Fourth, a sustainable business model for MOOC's has yet to emerge, other than to serve as a method of employment screening for some employers. Here is a quote from Inside Higher Ed:

Udacity has suggested that it might double as a headhunter for companies that might like to hire some of its more impressive students. Instead of simply selling those students credentials that they can list on their resumes while looking around for jobs, Udacity would offer to match students with companies that have enlisted Udacity as a talent scout. (The company has already hired a full-time jobs counselor to lay groundwork with potential employers.) Udacity would take a commission for each successful match, same as a headhunter.

I plan to keep watching MOOC's carefully.  Disruptive innovations can (and often do) come from unlikely places, and so a keen eye will be important to identify the possibilities as MOOC's evolve.

October 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dean Rachel Van Cleave on the Importance of Collaboration

Dean Rachel Van Cleave (Golden Gate) published an essay about two important conferences: Coming Together, Crafting Solutions. The conferences were (1) the NALP Foundation/West LegalEdCenter forum on Tomorrow's Law Practice: A Forum on the Market, Demand, and Opportunities for Lawyers; and (2) Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers conference Connecting the Academy and the Profession. In this essay, she emphasizes the importance of collaboration: "Private lawyers, government attorneys, public interest lawyers, legal educators, and even law school regulators must come together at the table for the betterment of the profession." According to Dean Van Cleave:

The candid conversations at these conferences constitute a significant shift away from the finger-pointing that has dominated discussions among and between these constituencies. Unlike some, embroiled in today's political stalemate in the federal government, we must choose to take on our challenges and accomplish productive change. While the pointed and rigorous debates of differences and misunderstandings are very important, it is our common interests and goals that provide an important framework for continuing to advance the legal profession by preparing today's law students for a new practice.

It is clear that lawyers from all sectors of the profession share a critical and fundamental point of view: we want a positive future for the legal profession, justice and democratic values, and we care deeply about the success of our students. It follows that this future also lies with the success of current and prospective law students. Focusing on a framework that is based on cultivating our future colleagues can help us ensure that the legal profession flourishes and fulfills its essential goals of serving justice and our democratic society.


October 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kornet on "Future Minded Legal Education in Europe"

As we think about legal education reform in the United States, it is interesting to consider legal education in other parts of the world.  Nicole Kornet (Maastricht University Faculty of Law) has posted "Future Minded Legal Education in Europe: The European Law School" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract: 

European integration and globalization continue to have a significant impact on the legal landscape. Legal problems are no longer neatly confined to national jurisdictions, exclusively subject to law originating from the nation-state. Instead, a complex, ever-changing, globalized legal world of legal norms, rules and principles stemming from diverse public and private actors at local, national, regional and global levels is developing and consequently calling into question the idea of law as a coherent system of norms within a particular national jurisdiction. If law no longer exclusively emanates from the nation-state and the concept of law is effectively disconnected from the idea of the state, legal education that continues to treat the law as a nationally-oriented discipline with a curriculum focused on acquiring mastery of the national legal system does not prepare the future generation of legal professionals to function in this complex, ever-changing, globalized legal world. Legal education needs to prepare students for the future by dealing with the law as an international discipline and challenging them to construct their own understanding of the law from multiple sources. This contribution presents one model for how the law curriculum can be reoriented to teach a European legal method to train European lawyers based on the European Law School at Maastricht University. This European-oriented curriculum dislodges the study of law from a particular national legal system and teaches law and the legal method in a European and comparative way combining the comparative law teaching method and problem-based learning.


October 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dean Frank Wu on Faculty Hiring: "What I Don't Do"

This post is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law.

I write to share a policy I have adopted that has proven effective. I do not weigh in on faculty hiring. That means publicly or privately.

To be precise, I avoid discussing individual candidates in any manner that would show my preference as to whether we extend an offer or not. I am entitled to vote; I would do so only to break a tie. But I also do not stroll the halls. I do not answer if questioned about an applicant.

I care very much, and I will say so forcefully, about many aspects of faculty hiring. I want us to be strategic, meaning looking to our needs and our identity; I am not enthusiastic bringing on a sixth constitutional law expert. I insist on appropriate consideration of diversity. I urge realism in the pursuit of lateral candidates. I request that we solicit student input.

On one occasion, I made a general observation about competition within the marketplace and the futility of searching for the perfect professor. On another occasion, I pointed out a great potential recruit who is from San Francisco. That's the extent of my involvement on the merits.

So I believe I have fulfilled my commitment to staying out of the substantive conversation on the merits of any particular candidate. I am neither a proponent nor an opponent of anyone who has come through. I measure my success by the criticism from the faculty: some have appealed to me to break from my self-imposed rule, but none has faulted me for having done so. 

My rationales are principled and practical. 

My primary justification is confidence in the process. Smart people are suspicious of anyone who proclaims trust in process. Our profession consists in no small part of showing advocates how to prevail through process. So an administrator who praises shared governance looks like a charlatan trying to game the system. Yet it functions if we allow it.

I might not have the same faith at another institution. I find myself surrounded by colleagues who are demonstrably collegial. 

Some of our culture might be the result of our peculiar history. For two generations, either all or the bulk of the faculty were members of the "65 Club" who had come to UC Hastings after being forced into retirement elsewhere. The dean who came up with that idea served almost a quarter century and was much more powerful than would be true of his successors. Professors then either left behind their squabbles on their former campus or had mellowed out of faculty politics.

If idealism were not sufficient to persuade me, I also consider the consequences. Faculty hiring is reputed to be the most divisive group project we undertake. I have been witness to so many negative costs of active decanal intervention in faculty hiring, against relatively modest positive benefits, abstention commends itself. Thus even were I not to trust the collective conclusion of those around me, I would hesitate to campaign for my predilections.

The greatest challenge to implementing my philosophy, as is true of most ambitions, has been myself. I often am tempted to comment on candidates. Without fail, when I restrain myself, somebody else soon enough voices what I would have -- and I am not only assured but also able to have an indulgent moment of self-congratulation.

Thus I am prompted to wonder whether I add value by speaking a statement beyond the intrinsic value of it being said. That would be the case only if I were invoking my authority. Even aware of how context matters, I am less and less self-important over time. Better that my utterances be reserved, and I have the confidence to remain silent. 

Besides, there are more effective means of projecting one's will than announcing it. Our Provost & Academic Dean is not bound by my rule. She is, and is perceived as, independent of me in these matters.

The other problem is the negative response from faculty who regard me as obstinate. There is a certain perversity, I suppose, to keeping one's own counsel. I suspect some professors also interpret my conduct as an indication of indifference to the scholarly pursuits that are their passion or confirmation of my lack of ability to engage in meaningful intellectual activity. 

I do not disclose that I look forward to the AALS recruitment conference as a rare opportunity to receive tutorials on multiple subjects I otherwise would never consider. I have many thoughts about what I hear at the "meat market." I have concluded my attendance is worthwhile, to speak to the interviewees and assess what is within my domain.

To be honest, I have noticed that I generally am interested in more candidates than the committee. That does not mean I lack standards. Everyone whom I size up as problematic has been deemed as such by my peers. A few on whom I would take a risk, the consensus would not. 

I believe it likely my more open attitude is related to my office, but I am not sure about cause and effect. It may be that persons who are less inclined toward judgment are suited to management, or it may be that leading a diverse community induces such a sensibility. 

To the extent I form opinions, I realize they are skewed by my perspective. I mull over a set of factors others in the room might not value highly: will this person suppose herself more deserving than others, can she be counted on for her share of institutional service, and what is the likelihood of loyalty to the school, etc. I am circumspect about these concerns as well, because others eventually will note them.

All of the foregoing also applies to other decisions. The greatest, meaning most significant as well as best, change in my understanding of my work as I mature in the responsibilities has been developing an acceptance of outcomes I would not have advocated for if I had another role. I do not aspire to authoritarianism. 

I have a vision for legal education and my institution. But the community must accept it and realize it. I have enough to do that likely will be contentious. Hiring faculty need not be on that list.

Outside academe, people who are in charge marvel at the democratic nature of faculties. I embrace it. We are the better for our deliberations. 

October 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dean Susan Poser on the Link Between Music and Success

Dean Susan Poser (University of Nebraska College of Law) published a New York Times Letter to the Editor about the connection between music education and success.  Dean Poser's letter was in response to "Is Music the Key to Success?" by Joanne Lipman.

Here's a quote from Dean Poser's letter: 

First, playing music provides perspective that is much needed by successful people, who lead busy and stressful lives. As Van Cliburn said in a 1994 interview, “If you hold on to the beauty and the inspiration and the clarity that is music, you will have an anchor ... you will not be too far swayed by what the world is.”

Second, playing music is humbling because it can always be better, more beautiful, more perfect. I play piano in an undergraduate chamber music class in which I am enrolled. The undergraduates, and the faculty coaches, remind me each week that success comes in many forms, from all parts, and that no one can corner the market.

October 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Feedback on the Faculty Recruitment Conference

The Faculty Recruitment Conference took place this past weekend. I hope those of you attending had a good experience, whether as a recruiter or a candidate.

Professor Linda Jellum  (Mercer) and I are working on a project involving the faculty recruitment process generally, and the AALS process more specifically. If you have a moment, we would appreciate your thoughts on the following questions:

1.  What does AALS do well (regarding the hiring process: FAR and FRC)?

2.  What could AALS do better?

3.  What services does AALS not provide in regard to hiring that you would like to see?

Please feel free to leave a comment, or you can email me directly.


October 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Let's Talk About Law Faculty Hiring

Here we are again at the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference (FRC). My co-editor Dean Richard Gershon started the conversation the other day, and I would like to chime in with a few thoughts. I think the FRC, in its current form, is an idea whose time has passed. When this conference first started--all of us coming to DC (and sometimes Chicago in the really old days)--it was an efficient system. It provided a convenient way for candidates to meet with many schools and schools to meet with many candidates for quick screening interviews all in one place at one time. It enabled schools to keep costs low by shifting some of the cost to candidates themselves and by enabling interview teams to go to one place at one time to talk to everyone.

But, times have changed and technology has advanced. It can no longer be considered efficient for either interviewing teams or candidates to incur the costs to travel to DC when there is now reliable and inexpensive technology that can enable us to have the initial screening interviews from our own conference rooms in our home schools. There is no reason why the AALS couldn't continue to provide the FAR--and even charge for it--but when schools buy access to the FAR, that should include the right to opt out of the annual pilgrimage to the Marriott Wardman Park. The AALS could impose some date restrictions so that schools are operating on a roughly even time table.

Don't get me wrong; I really enjoy meeting the candidates and hearing about their fascinating and innovative work. I enjoy hearing about their enthusiasm for teaching; it inspires me to go back and find ways I can be a better teacher and dean. I enjoy getting to know people through the hiring process. I have good friends and colleagues who I met through this process (on both sides). Without the FRC, we would lose some of the camaraderie that develops within teams as well as between teams and candidates. I am looking forward to what the next two days will bring and excited about the prospect of ending up with some wonderful new colleagues who will help usher in the bright future of legal education.

However--in this time of shrinking budgets and concerns about rising costs--it's time to consider whether the FRC is the best use of our limited resources (for both the schools and the candidates).

But let's hear from you! While you are relaxing between interviews, send us your comments. What are your thoughts about the conference and the hiring process in general? Candidates, what do you want deans to know about you and about the process? Deans and Faculty, what do you want candidates to know? What do you look for when you hire faculty? For those of you who have been here before, what is your favorite memory from the AALS FRC? Your worst memory? (Mine's the year we had to vacate in the middle of the night for a fire--wasn't that 2001?) Tell us whatever you want to--it is your chance to rant or vent or just retell a funny story (and you can do it anonymously if you want to).


October 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Open Data and the Future of Rankings

The Chronicle posted an essay by Jeff Selingo entitled "What the Open-Data Movement Means for the Future of Colleges." The points made are, of course, as applicable to law schools as they are to higher education generally. In fact, most of what the essay discusses describes the competitive world law schools already live in--a world driven by rankings systems that are based on data about the credentials of incoming students, graduation rates (in the case of law schools, bar pass rates), graduates' employment and income rates, and other easily quantifiable factors. But the essay makes some interesting observations and predictions about the impact of the availability of information on college ranking systems.

Selingo notes that in the dark ages when the last government shutdown occurred (1995-96), information about colleges was not readily available on the Internet. People got their information about colleges from a book that could be found in a library or purchased at a bookstore or by contacting the school directly and waiting for information to arrive by mail. By comparison, today, of course, information about colleges and universities (and law schools) is freely available on many websites, including the schools' own websites.

Selingo goes on to predict that the open-data movement will spark the development of new rankings systems-including Obama's proposed college ranking system--based primarily on graduation rates and graduates' earnings, and that these rankings systems will drive students away from underperforming schools.

What Selingo acknowledges and what law deans already know, is that, while graduation rates and graduates' income levels are important data points, there are a lot of other important factors that should go into a student's decision about where to go to college (or law school)--factors like what did graduates learn while they were at that school, what skills do graduates take into the marketplace, what impact will graduates make in the future. These factors are harder to measure and so are harder to reflect in rankings systems.

But Salingo "imagine(s) new players, such as LinkedIn, getting into the [rankings] business because it could combine new government statistics with a wealth of information it already holds about its users: where they went to college, the jobs they have held, the skills they possess." Over 800 million people use Facebook and many of them identify their college (and law school), along with their employers and other information that would provide insights about particular institutions' graduates and create more sophisticated ways to capture data that would be relevant to prospective students.

Selingo concludes that "college leaders should take the lead in defining the value of their institutions and then figure out how to measure it before others do it for them." Over the past few days, as I have perused the many wonderful e-newsletters I have received from law schools across the country (and from all across the "rankings" spectrum), it has occurred to me that law schools are already very good at identifying the value of our institutions--we just need to figure out how to measure it and convey it to prospective students in a way that enables them to make meaningful distinctions among law schools. Until we do, US News is going to keep doing it for us.









October 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The "Cost Disease" in Higher Education, Part 2 -- What Is Productivity in Higher Education?

In my last post, I introduced the phenomenon of the "cost disease" and how it applies to higher education.  In this post, I discuss a concept at the heart of the cost disease -- productivity.

Productivity is the ratio of output produced per unit of input.  In the classic economics hypothetical of labor used to produce widgets, productivity can be stated as the number of widgets produced per work hour.   For example, in time period one, a firm might produce 5 widgets per hour of labor. Then, in time period two, with use of improved technology, the firm might produce 8 widgets per hour of labor.  The firm's productivity has increased from period one to period two.

The widget example shows how productivity is important to an economy.  Technology allowed the same worker to produce more widgets per hour.  This increased production generates additional sales and revenue, which allows the employer to pay higher wages.  Increased productivity, then, can result in increased income and standard of living.

To compute productivity in higher education, we must identify the applicable units of output and input.  That is, we must answer the questions, What outputs are produced by a college or university?, and What inputs are used to produce those outputs?  Further, to measure productivity, we must be able to quantify these variables.  The difficulty in this analysis is summarized quite well in the following passage from a panel report of the National Research Council entitled Improving Measurement of Productivity in Higher Education:

A number of complexities characterize higher education production processes.  These reflect the presence of (1) joint production—colleges and universities generate a number of outputs (such as educated and credentialed citizens, research findings, athletic events, hospital services), and the labor and other inputs involved cannot always be neatly allocated to them; (2) high variability in the quality and characteristics of inputs, such as teachers and students, and outputs, such as degrees; and (3) outputs (and inputs) of the production process that are nonmarket in nature. As is the case with other sectors of the economy, particularly services, productivity measurement for higher education is very much a work in progress in terms of its capacity to handle these complexities. Because no single metric can incorporate everything that is important, decision makers must appeal to a range of statistics or indicators when assessing policy options—but surely a well-conceived productivity measure is one of these.

In the next post on this topic, I will discuss the outputs and inputs to higher education.


October 16, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference

If you are headed to the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference later this week, or have particpated in the past, I would love to know your impressions of the conference. Comments from candidates, as well as members of recruitment committees, would be appreciated.

October 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dean Frank Wu: My College, The Newspaper

This essay is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law. This blog entry appeared originally at Huffington Post.

I lead an institution of higher education. That means I am the equivalent of a newspaper publisher circa 1997. We all know now what only the most astute publishers knew then: The Internet has arrived.

Anyone could predict that content would migrate. But what even the most savvy owners of daily metropolitan broadsheets did not anticipate is how advertisers would migrate too -- or how quickly the move would occur. It wasn't websites that put up their own reporting that spelled the end for all but the mightiest papers; it was Craig's List and other alternative places for classifieds. It didn't even matter that websites had difficulty themselves monetizing what they were doing; they could still cut off the revenue for their print competitors.

Incidentally, if you didn't overpay to buy the operation, it's still possible to make money in the newspaper business. But instead of making money with fat profit margins in a socially prestigious profession or avocation, you make money with the leanest profit margins in an occupation along the lines of a gas station owner.

Thus it has become apparent what a newspaper is. A newspaper isn't the newspaper. It is not the physical medium, however appealing it remains to those who grew up riding a bicycle around the block to deliver it, with a monthly collection from each household of a few dollars, or for those who still prefer to open the pages at the breakfast table, with the cheap black ink smudging off on their fingers.

A newspaper is a concept. It can be operationalized, very effectively, in various instantiations.

In abstract terms, a newspaper is a nexus. It is an organized structure for bringing together the readers with the writers. An institution of higher education is also a nexus. It is a means of bringing together the students with the teachers.

Access to the newspaper's nexus is sold to the advertisers. That makes it affordable for the readers and subsidizes the writers. The advertisers are after the former and the latter are essentially the means to an end. Other than especially civic-minded advertisers, they would just as soon reach the readers -- whom they characterize as consumers -- and dispense with the writers -- who are the hired help.

Access to the higher-ed nexus is offered to prospective employers. Here as well, there has been a generational change. In the cultural revolution of the late 1960s, people wanted to learn for the sake of learning; starting with the counter-revolution of the 1980s, people wanted to be prepared to make a living. In a perfect world, we would see that these are the same goals. There is much more to contemporary expectations than merely materialistic ambitions. Only those who already have jobs are able to dismiss the reasonable desire of those without them to come to school so they can get them.

In terms of content, a newspaper must (or at least should) perform the function of sorting and credentialing. Its operators determine what information within the chaotic mass of available data is worthwhile. Furthermore, they vouch for the accuracy of what they present.

The institution of higher education also performs the function of sorting and credentialing. It is a business that those of us who hold onto progressive ideals might be uncomfortable with, but it is the business we are in nonetheless.

Our responsibilities as gatekeepers could be described in a more genteel manner. We attest to the quality of not only our students, but also -- and just as importantly -- our teachers. We are saying to the world that coming here means you have the opportunity to interact with a certain group of great minds as peers and pupils. The catch is that the specific place may become no more relevant than the pages of the newspaper.

Most colleges in fact are not all that selective. They admit a majority of their applicants. Most law schools, however, are selective. Selectivity and prestige are mutually cause and effect. The nexus shrinks in size to grow in rank.

The campus enables social interaction. For traditional college students, that's essential to the experience. For graduate students, it's an entry to the profession. Yet social interaction itself is becoming altogether different. Old-fashioned courtship has given way to meeting via the web.

We know what has become of newspapers. After all, consider how I am communicating with you. There is a lesson here for any college president.



October 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Who Are Law School Deans? Dean Jim Rosenblatt Has Data On That.

Dean Jim Rosenblatt (Mississippi College) has created Rosenblatt's Deans Database.  Here's how he describes the database and the information collected there: 

This site provides information about law school deans.  Ever wondered who is the longest serving dean?  Which current dean has held the most deanships?  How many deans were former law professors or judges?  What schools a dean attended?  Who were the former deans at a particular law school?

The RDD is designed to answer these questions and to provide information to those who take an interest in law school deanships.  This database may be used by dean search committees, university officials, or members of the public and is available without charge.

An exciting feature of the RDD is that it is always current.  Unlike printed lists of deans that go out of date quickly when changes occur, the RDD can be updated by individual law schools the instant a change occurs.  These updates are immediately shown on the RDD. 

The National Law Journal recently published an article about the data that can be derived from Rosenblatt's Deans Database, entitled "Yale Beats Harvard--in Producing Law School Deans." From the title, it's obvious that, among other things, data is available about where law deans went to law school. (I would be remiss if I didn't give my own law alma mater a shout out:  the University of Southern California produced three currently sitting deans.) 

In addition, other interesting data is available, including the median length of law deanships (3.24 years) and the longest deanships (John O'Brien of New England School of Law, with more than 25 years as dean).  

October 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are New Law Schools Really The Problem?

Many deans have wondered why the ABA continues to approve new law schools, given the national decline in applications. An essay I wrote for the Toledo Law Review proposes that new law schools are not the problem. In fact, new law schools would drive innovation, if the accreditation process allowed for it. The essay further asserts that established schools will either be new schools in 10 years, or they will not survive.  The essay can be found at :


October 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (3)

National Law Journal Story Highlights Law Deans on Legal Education Blog

Karen Sloan of the National Law Journal has published a story about this blog.  The story is here

October 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Look at Germany's Legal Education System

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin originally published my essay about legal education in Germany under the title "Germany's Legal Education System Offers Lessons For U.S. Reform":

One issue that seems to be on the minds of everyone in the legal community is legal education reform. How can we provide better training for lawyers at a lower cost?

The need for reform in both the economic model of legal education and in the law school curriculum is driven by various factors. Changes in the economy, advancements in technology and the new demands of a global marketplace have changed the legal profession and professionals, and educators recognize that the way we train new lawyers can be improved.

As we consider ways to improve legal education in the United States, it is helpful to consider the legal education systems in place in other countries. As a Fulbright senior scholar in Germany, I had the opportunity to learn about legal education there.

In Germany, traditional legal education consists of a university degree program (somewhat comparable to U.S. undergraduate degree programs) after which the student must take and pass the First State Examination. Usually, it takes about five years to complete this first phase.

The university program is highly theoretical. In addition to specialized courses in law, students must satisfy general educational requirements and demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language. Tuition at German public universities is very low; public universities’ primary funding is from the government.

Following the university program and passage of the first examination, the student must complete a two-year clerkship training period, followed by the Second State Examination.

The two-year clerkship includes a rotation in each of several different settings: civil court; criminal court or prosecuting attorney’s office; administrative court or government agency; private law firm; and a place of the clerk’s choosing. The clerks also take courses that are typically taught by judges or lawyers.

While the clerks complete their required clerkships, they receive a modest wage from the government. Some law firms pay a premium to their clerks, but this premium reduces the amount paid by the government.

The first examination focuses on doctrinal knowledge and the second examination focuses on practical skills. Both examinations have written and oral components and are quite grueling in comparison to American bar examinations.

A German law student gets only two chances to pass each examination and is fully qualified to practice as an attorney or serve as a judge only after passing both.

The German system relies on the bar, the judiciary and the law faculties to each do their part to ensure a legal education that is rigorous and varied in a way that ensures that students are exposed to ample theoretical learning along with robust practical training.

This system could not exist without the active support and participation of the government, including both funding of the law schools and the clerkship program as well as administering the clerkship program to ensure quality experiences for clerks.

In Germany, universities of applied sciences also offer degrees in law-related fields, but graduates of these programs are not qualified to do the same work as attorneys who attend a university and pass the examinations.

The focus of these applied sciences programs is practical skill development. These graduates are qualified to engage in specialized occupations that have a legal component, such as real estate, but not to represent clients or appear in court.

The fact that some universities offer the traditional legal education while other applied sciences universities provide a shorter, different program shows that there is a place for schools that deliver different programs of legal education that lead to different careers in the law.

As with any educational system, there are both positive and negative aspects of the German method of educating lawyers. However, the German system does provide German lawyers with an excellent grounding in legal theory and practical skills and they emerge from their training without debt.

Although it is not realistic to duplicate the economic model that sustains the German system of legal education, we could — through meaningful collaboration among the bench, bar and law schools — improve the way we train American lawyers.

As professionals, lawyers must keep the best interests of their clients paramount in navigating the terrain of a changed legal marketplace. Likewise, legal educators owe a duty to their students to prepare them for the challenges and rewards of this new marketplace. As citizens who enjoy the privilege of living and working in the U.S. legal system, we all have the duty to ensure that the steps we take forward put us on a path toward ensuring that more of our fellow citizens have meaningful access to that system.

Whether or not we borrow concepts from beyond our borders, I hope that we will take this opportunity to look broadly and think innovatively and that we do not overlook opportunities for changes that will improve our system for everyone during this time of reform.


October 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Justice Kennedy on 2-Year Law School, Legal Blogging, Empathy, and Diversity on the Court

The Wall Street Journal LawBlog posted a couple of interesing interview segments with Justice Kennedy here and here.  

When asked about shortening law school to two years, Justice Kennedy said: 

I think the cost factor has to be addressed [but] I don’t think the right way to address it is to shorten the curriculum [which provides] the foundation for what I call the language of the law, the language that lawyers speak to each other. I can pick up the telephone and talk to an attorney two generations removed from me, and [yet] I know him, I know her. We talk this [common] language that we learn in the law school. And this is the envy of the rest of the world, I assure you, it’s a tremendous national resource.

Justice Kennedy said that he finds blogs helpful as an alternative to traditional academic scholarship: 

Professors are back in the act with the blogs. Orin Kerr, one of my former clerks, with criminal procedure [and] the internet area, Mike DorfJack Goldsmith. So the professors within 72 hours have a comment on the court opinion, which is helpful, and they are beginning to comment on when the certs are granted. And I like that.

When asked about whether judges should possess “empathy,” Justice Kennedy's response was: 

Sometimes people are cautious about that. You see the poor person hurt and the defendant is rich so you think maybe they should have the money. And if that’s how the word “empathy” plays out in your mind then there is a problem with it. But I sometimes ask my grandkids, what do you think are in all those books that are on my walls? Those are cases. Those are stories about real people, and their hopes and their aspirations, their disappointments, their mistakes. Real people are going to be bound by what you do."

When asked about the benefit of added diversity on the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy said:

Sure, I think it’s helpful that we have different points of view. I’m not sure that rigid categories of gender and ethnic background are always proxies for diversity, but it gives legitimacy to what the court does. [Still], it used to be that diversity was geographical. [Nowadays], I’m the only justice from west of the Mississippi, [while four justices come from New York City].

October 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Nominations for the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award

The AALS Section on Women in Legal Education is pleased to open nominations for its second Lifetime Achievement Award. Last year, the inaugural award honored Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her remarkable impact and contributions to the Section on Women in Legal Education, the legal academy, and the legal profession.

The purpose of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award is to honor an individual who has had a distinguished career of teaching, service, and scholarship for at least 20 years.  The recipient should be someone who has impacted women, the legal community, the academy, and the issues that affect women through mentoring, writing, speaking, activism, and by providing opportunities to others.

The Section is seeking nominations for this most prestigious award.  Please submit your nomination by filling out this electronic form by November 8, 2013Please note that only nominations submitted via the electronic form by the deadline will be accepted.

Please email Dean Cynthia Fountaine, chair of the Lifetime Achievement Award Subcommittee, if you have any questions or difficulty with your online submission. 

October 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dean Rachel Van Cleave on the Future of the Legal Profession

Dean Rachel Van Cleave (Golden Gate) provides her thoughts on the future of the legal profession here.  In this essay, she states:

"I believe that the future of the profession requires all of us, regardless of practice sector or role, to answer the critical existential question of who lawyers are.  Our future will be stronger and brighter if we come together to answer this question collectively and focus on the positive opportunities and valid roles of each sector. 

. . . 

Lawyers are an important symbol of access to justice, fairness, and thoughtful attention to solving problems without violence.  Lawyers are a symbol of the rule of law rather than the rule of men or women."

October 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)