Monday, September 29, 2014

Dean Frank Wu: How to Start a Law School Clinic

This essay is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law.  It was originally published on LinkedIn. 
 
I once was honored to speak at a conference to colleagues (law school deans) about how to bring about change. During the Q&A, we panelists were asked by a newer appointee to this unusual role how she might realize her desire to create for students a new clinic that was oriented toward transactional practice rather than litigation.
 
My answer was contrarian. She should do nothing.
 
What I mean is that she personally and directly is not likely the best person at her institution to undertake this initiative. Her own enthusiasm is neither necessary to nor sufficient for the project. She could be an effective catalyst, possibly superlative as the spark. For reasons both political and practical, after that point her intentions would be well served by delegating.
 
I share with my peer the belief that skills training is crucial for law students. Every graduate of law school needs exposure to the actual work of attorneys, gaining hands-on experience with cases and transactions on behalf of real clients — under the supervision of experienced teachers, without anxieties about how to make a profit. Virtually the whole of the bar agrees about imposing such a prerequisite to entry into the profession.
 
That is what a clinic offers. Clients who cannot afford to retain full members of the bar benefit from the assistance of attorneys in training; they in turn acquire vital experience. A transactional clinic is all about doing deals, not fighting disputes — it's a type of legal practice less often depicted on television and in movies. To meet the demand, law schools increasingly are establishing clinics of all types. It's common now, though it was not a generation ago, for a law school to boast an array of clinics.
 
At my school, for example, we have established multiple such programs: in elder law, a field that barely existed when I was a student but which has become enormous since; representing startups and nonprofits, both of which are abundant in the San Francisco Bay Area where we are located; and on national security and privacy, issues of increasing concern to all Americans in an era of high-tech surveillance.
I take no credit for any of it. A person with passion exceeding mine has been the prime mover in each instance.
 
My responsibilities include developing a strategic plan; ensuring an environment supportive of ideas and risks; coordinating among departments and resolving conflicts that are inevitable; balancing personal ambitions with shared norms; and ensuring actions can be sustained over time within budgetary constraints. They do not encompass the actual day-to-day work, from "next action" to "next action" on a Gantt chart, to achieve the goal.
 
Schools are slower than I wish they were. That's a function of deliberation. The more unhurried the decision, the more genuine the discussion. It might take more than a year to set up a clinic, because windows open and close in the academic calendar, and multiple approvals may be needed within a bureaucracy.
 
Academic institutions may be an extreme example. They are different than companies, government agencies, or nonprofit organizations. The closest counterpart would be a co-operative.
 
The tradition of faculty governance remains strong. It is a democracy of individuals with tenure. It is they, not the nominal leader, who determine who else will be invited to join the club and the academic policies.
When I visit law firm managing partners, who perceive of us as holding the same job more or less, they express surprise at the limited range of actions deemed appropriate for addressing personnel matters within higher education. They would be shocked at the rights that must be respected: even the notion that a law school dean is similar to a law firm managing partner might trigger an adverse reaction about corporate values being imposed upon campus culture.
 
The requirements of colleges have increased profoundly since antiquity. An itinerant sophist would have recruited disciples at the agora (the public square). A faculty is no longer a collective of leading minds devoted to their own respective investigations and attracting a following of apprentices.
 
The expectations have accumulated in a manner that could not have been imagined by the teacher-scholars who held tutorials and conducted scientific experiments. A school is to offer health care, psychological counseling, disability accommodations, technological support, job placement services, and enrichment programming for the public. A school has to compete against rivals. A school also operates in the same environment as any other venture: reporting to government regulators, outside auditors, and independent watchdogs.
 
For anyone who heads an institution of higher education, the challenges have changed correspondingly. It is necessary to be outward facing — raising money, advocating for reform, ensuring good relationships with neighbors, and making public appearances in general. Yet it also involves demonstrating competence at and interest in the academic activities that scholar-teachers regard as the core of their career, while being enough of a businessperson to oversee the operations of an enterprise of considerable complexity.
 
Even without these constraints, however, any leader has to adapt her skills if she began as someone with skill in a specialized subject. Beyond higher education, with its emphasis on professorial prerogatives, every executive must be mindful of her limits. A good manager almost certainly knows less than those who report to her, as to the specific task they perform. A new supervisor has to avoid the temptation to take on tasks herself that she could assign to others.
 
A law school dean who presents the vision of a school dedicated to students, training them to join a service profession, must have support from those around her. She cannot implement everything or even anything; they will do so. She encourages; they execute. To get things done, she must find champions for the cause.
None of this is to suggest that one should strive to be a figurehead. I have to set up the process and the infrastructure within which everything else occurs. That includes assessing whether a proposal is more than good — if it is the best, taking into account the opportunity costs. It entails allocating the appropriate funding, whether by making a judgment call among competing choices or generating new resources.
 
An abstract concept becomes a concrete reality through teamwork. That is why a law school dean who wishes to open a clinic must rely on others. The same applies to all who have someone else reporting to them whatever the industry. A loner cannot become a leader; a dictator will not last as one.

September 29, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 19, 2014

CSOL Founder Creates Nonprofit as Alternative to Infilaw

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From the Charleston Post & Courier:

"Charleston School of Law founder Ed Westbrook has formed a nonprofit corporation to run the school, which he says would provide a viable alternative to selling it to the for-profit InfiLaw System. However, George Kosko and Robert Carr, the other two remaining founders who strongly support the sale to InfiLaw, are not inclined to go along with Westbrook's new plan."

Westbrook's plan is overwhelmingly supported by the faculty, alumni, and students at CSOL, as well as community leaders. 

September 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dean Frank Wu: The Future of Scotland and the Role of Scholars

This essay is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law.  It was originally published on LinkedIn

I have no opinion about Scotland seceding from the United Kingdom. But I have an observation to offer about the importance of opinions. I happen to be acquainted with not one but two law professors who are experts on sovereignty. Their work should be supported.

It is a common sport to mock academics for their research. Faculty are criticized for their dedication to obscure, specialized fields. Their work might appear to be theoretical. Since their salaries are paid in part by tuition revenue, the public wonders about the social utility of what they end up producing.

A subject such as secession is an example, however, of the need for independent, neutral, and knowledgeable sources of information. There is no shortage of commentators chattering away about Scotland from near and far. But some of them are aligned ideologically or otherwise have a stake in the outcome, while others are all-purpose pundits who should not automatically be deemed authorities.

Press coverage makes apparent the complexity of the Scottish issue. It dates back to 1707, when the Acts of Union passed in the Parliaments. History, economics, culture, and politics all factor into the situation.

A journalist who is writing on Scotland likely is a generalist. She will contact sources for guidance. A reader who consults Wikipedia depends on the contributors to the online encyclopedia. Data does not create itself.

That is why scholars must be trained. An individual cannot become informed instantly. An undergraduate pursues these possibilities as she is encouraged to join an intellectual community. That occurs by reading books, written by earlier generations of teachers; discussing the material, under the guidance of additional teachers; and writing papers, evaluated by the same teachers.

She then enters a graduate program, learning further regardless of whether the topic is the most timely. Eventually, she is invited to become a colleague to her mentors. She repeats the cycle.

There are myriad branches of study that fall out of fashion only to come back to favor. They are intrinsically valuable, inasmuch as they form our shared heritage. They also are instrumentally worthwhile, because they inform public policy decision-making.

It is likely that we will continue to see the formation of new states and the disintegration of old states. Scotland today, another nation tomorrow. Change can be orderly or not. We hope the rule of law is established, to enable civic society to flourish.

One of the professors who is a friend has another area of investigation. He is a leading author on piracy. A generation ago, that would have been dismissed as, at best, a quaintly idiosyncratic diversion from more serious matters. Given the resurgence in robbery at sea, not to mention the geopolitical effects, he turns out to be useful for the most practical purposes.

In 1964, the Richard Hofstadter won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. What he said fifty years ago remains true: experts are disliked not because they are unimportant, but just the opposite — because they are influential.

September 13, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Do Law Schools Need the AALS?

I remember one of the highlights of my early career as a law professor was receiving my first copy of the Directory of Law Teachers. Having your name and bio in the directory was exciting. That was in the in the mid-1980’s.

Today, on the other hand, when the Directory is delivered to my office in all of its cumbersome glory, I have a different reaction. Why is the AALS still taking the time and effort to publish an anachronistic phonebook, when all of the information it contains is much more easily accessible online? I know the Directory is not the biggest issue facing legal education, or the AALS, but it is a symptom of an entrenched unwillingness to change that has plagued law schools and the AALS for years.

I recently compared the AALS to SEALS, and am left wondering, do law schools even need the AALS anymore? Ten years ago, schools would have never asked that question, and new schools were eager to join, because of the enhanced prestige of AALS membership. After all, you wanted to be listed in the Directory under “Member Schools,” instead of “Fee Paid Schools.” But, there are around 180 member schools out of approximately 200 total law schools (around 90%), so does membership really add prestige? AALS membership might matter to other legal academics, but I am convinced that lawyers and judges, for the most part, do not care whether their law school is a member school, and prospective students only really care about rankings and ABA approval.

The cost of membership in AALS is over $10,000 for most law schools (the AALS Bylaws state that fees are determined by FTE). Additionally, law schools pay the cost of sabbatical review by the association. These dues pay the salaries of a fulltime staff, and overhead. Recently, the AALS has decided to purchase a building.

There is no doubt that AALS needs law schools, but I think we at least need to have a conversation about whether law schools still need the AALS. We have much invested in our memberships over the years, but does that large investment justify continued investment in the organization? We have also invested many tens of thousands in microfiche for our libraries for decades, but I cannot imagine anyone making the argument that we should continue to spend resources on microfiche.

In full disclosure, I am the chair-elect of the Socioeconomics Section of the AALS, and I know the organization hosts some really strong programs, especially at the section level. I also think that the appointment of Judith Areen to lead the association is a wonderful choice, and that she has already made strides to move the AALS forward. I hope that she can make the AALS vital and relevant to law schools, or she might find that, for the first time in the association’s history, its membership is declining.

September 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)