Saturday, February 28, 2015

What Senior Staff Have to Say About Legal Education

From time to time, I correspond with people who read what I write. I received a most interesting note from someone very familiar with legal education. A long-time administrator at another law school in California, not my own, this person sent me a message worth quoting from (with permission).


This person describes "a watershed moment of legal education {and higher education) that will determine if we slip into becoming the parasites some accuse us of being, or push through to become more valuable to our students and society than ever though possible." The person believes, and I agree, that there isn't a single right answer to the hard questions. Instead, the answers may be "as diverse as the particular institutions and perhaps (if those institutions are willing to admit it) the students they serve."


Finally, as someone who has an important role within the institution but not as a faculty member, my interlocutor concludes that staff take these issues "as seriously as anyone with tenure" and perhaps more so "if you'll forgive me saying it that bluntly."


The challenge, as this individual identified thoughtfully, is how to bring together consensus while advancing ideas that might be as unpopular as they are necessary.

February 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dean Blake Morant Talks to The Chronicle About Legal Education

Dean Blake Morant, dean of George Washington University Law School and AALS president, recently spoke with The Chronicle of Higher Education's Beckie Supiano about what lessons higher education can draw from our experiences in managing legal education in a time of rapid change.  

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

"[T]here are over 205 law schools in this country. There are over 175 AALS member schools. This is a very large country, with a variety of different opportunities for individuals. So while we have commonalities, there are also differences. But those differences are what gives choice to individuals who are trying to maximize what they want to do with their careers.

So as I say that, I think the idea of competition is always going to be there, and I think that's very healthy. If I see a law school with a program that's basically addressing a need, and I look at that method, "Well, you know, that would be great to do here, but I would like to tweak it a little bit in order to make it our kind of program." I think that's healthy.

At the same time, we're all facing a lot of very similar problems. And this is why I'm so excited about being president of AALS. Because I'll have the opportunity to really have a conversation with many different law schools out there. And as I have that conversation, I'm able to weave a thread, if you will, between the kind of issues that they're dealing with and the kind of issues that many law schools are dealing with.

You brought up a couple of those. There are fewer people applying to law school today than there have been in the last, I'd say, 20 years or so. Everyone's dealing with that particular situation.

You also brought up the issue of expense. That's a very, very complex issue that basically brings up, What are we giving individuals that basically gives them value for what they're paying for? And are we doing everything we can to spend that money as efficiently and effectively as possible to give them the kind of education that they need?

When we're asking those questions, many of us are coming up with solutions that are very similar. So we're having more individuals doing innovative things with their curriculum, taking advantage of technology, and maximizing the sort of choices that people have by getting them to think probatively about marrying a law degree with their individual talents."

See the full interview here.

February 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Big News For Law Deans on Legal Education

It gives me great pleasure to report that Dean JoAnne Epps (Temple), Dean Martin Katz (Denver), Dean Daniel Rodriguez (Northwestern), Dean Kellye Testy (Washington), Dean David Yellen (Loyola Chicago), and Chancellor and Dean Frank Wu (UC Hastings) will be joining this blog. These deans are respected leaders in legal education, and I am honored, and humbled, to have the opportunity to work with them.


February 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Clarification

In a previous post I mentioned  Matt Leichter's predictions regarding overproduction of lawyers, and the post about Law School Transparency on the Faculty Lounge.

I spoke recently with Kyle McEntee, Executive Director, Law School Transparency, and learned that LST is not responsible for the  inaccurate posts made on some law school Wikipedia pages. Mr. McEntee informed me that the Wikipedia posts were made by law students, who simply referenced the LST site.  LST's numbers are correct.

On a personal note, I think that LST has been a good thing for legal education, and accountability. The changes made by the ABA with regard to placement rates were, in large part, a response to the information being posted by LST.

I still take issue with Matt Leichter's numbers regarding lawyer overproduction. His numbers are primarily forecasts, and he does not adjust them when his forecasts turn out to be wrong. He is as reliable as a weather forecast predicting next month's weather.

February 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Law Library Sign of the Times

ShelvesI took this photo while visiting a law school that will remain nameless because I didn't ask for permission to post it (though I'm quite certain the school would be far from ashamed to be named). Libraries are going digital, and budget pressures make it difficult to justify maintaining print publications. Most law firm and county libraries have long since cancelled their print subscriptions, driving up the publication costs for the few remaining (mostly law school) buyers.

Colin Picker over at Law School Vibe suggests that:


the law schools within a city or region should  consolidate their collections together, in the process reducing unnecessary duplication.  That consolidated collection could be stored in a suitable warehouse.  The consolidated library books could then be electronically identified and ordered as needed by students or academics from participating law schools....

This may be a viable option for materials not yet available digitally, such as traditional academic books. But for everything else -- case reporters, law journals, etc. -- I suspect the answer will be outright replacement with digital materials.

Shelves at many law libraries already are tagged with a note indicating that the shelved material is no longer kept up-to-date. Rows of discontinued publications already look antiquated; it's only a matter of time (and a reversal in the decline in law school admissions) before libraries are pressured to discard the paper and repurpose the space.

Rick Bales


February 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hamline and William Mitchell Law Schools Announce Merger

From Dean Jean Holloway of Hamline University School of Law, and President and Dean Eric S. Janus, of William Mitchell College of Law:

"Our two law schools have announced plans to combine, to further our shared missions of providing a rigorous, practical, and problem-solving approach to legal education.

The combination will occur following acquiescence by the American Bar Association.  Until then the two schools will continue to operate their current programs, while taking steps to ensure a smooth transition for students when ABA acquiescence is obtained.

Once combined, the law school will offer expanded benefits for its students, including three nationally-ranked programs: alternative dispute resolution, clinical education, and health law; an array of certificate and dual degree programs, and an alumni network of more than 18,000.

The combined school will be named Mitchell|Hamline School of Law and will be located primarily on William Mitchell’s existing campus in Saint Paul.  Mitchell|Hamline School of Law will be an autonomous, non-profit institution governed by an independent board of trustees, with a strong and long-lasting affiliation to Hamline University.

The Mitchell|Hamline School of Law will be led by Mark Gordon, who will serve as its founding President and Dean.  Mark brings nearly 30 years of experience in higher education and public service. He is currently president of Defiance College, a private, liberal arts college in Defiance, Ohio, and previously served as dean of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law."



February 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Check the Stats


In my senior year of college at the University of Georgia, I had the good fortune of covering the Atlanta Flames of the National Hockey League for an FM radio station in Athens, Ga.  The Flames moved to Calgary, shortly thereafter (and Atlanta has even lost a second NHL team, the Thrashers). 

My job was to go to the games, sit in the press-box, and conduct post-game interviews. It was truly a great experience, but I was far from being a professional interviewer. I have many vivid memories from that experience. Most of the players were really classy human beings. Jean Pronovost, for example, was always willing to give an interview, even after a bad loss. He was polite, and gracious, despite the fact that I was a 20 year old college senior, pretending to be a sports reporter.  Some players, on the other hand, were not as nice. One defenseman took great pleasure in disrespecting reporters, doing things I need not mention on this blog.

One of my favorite players to interview was Bill Clement. Clement was one of the most intelligent players in the league, and he always did his homework. I was not surprised when he went on to do broadcasting on a national level, when he retired from playing. After one game, he quickly exposed my lack of depth. I asked a teammate of Clement's how it felt to be scoring goals this year, since he was not known as a goal scorer. Clement called out from across the locker room, "check the stats." If I had done my homework better, I would have seen that the player I was questioning had been the second-leading goal scorer on his previous team. Bill Clement then kindly pulled me aside, and told me that he wasn't trying to show me up, he simply wanted to make sure I got the facts right.

As I read Matt Leichter's post regarding overproduction of lawyers, and the posts about Law School Transparency on the Faculty Lounge, I want to call across the room, "check the stats." Much of the information coming from those sources is contradicted by the facts reported by law schools to the ABA, including placement rates and costs. 

More on this to come.

February 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Clinical Education

Medical schools pride themselves on being professional schools, and not graduate schools. They understand that they cannot train new doctors, without giving them exposure to actual medical practice.  Law schools are finally moving more and more to the professional school model, by offering experiential learning, including clinics.

I have become a big believer in clinical education, and the impact it has on students, as well as the clients they serve. Students and alumni regularly tell me that their experience serving in a clinic was the most rewarding and valuable thing they did in law school. Some student testimonials can be found here.

February 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Touro Law Center's Journal of Experiential Learning

Touro Law Center has published the Journal of Experiential Learning.

The journal is a place for deans and faculty to publish essays and articles about their experiments with various aspects of experiential education.  The journal welcomes guest editors and ideas for themes for future issues.

The coordinating editor is Myra Berman, Assoc. Dean for Experiential Learning at Touro Law.




February 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Teaching Skills

At Ole Miss Law we require a two week  Skill Session each year. 1L's are required to take Contract Negotiation and Drafting,  while 2L and 3L students can elect the Skill Session class they will take. The program has now been in place for three years.

 The classes are  taught by a combination of full-time faculty members and practitioners, and the practitioners live on campus during the two-week program. Having lawyers and judges present on campus for the entire two weeks allows the students to interact with them on a much more meaningful basis than the typical course taught by an adjunct.  Furthermore, we have found that teaching skills in a concentrated two-week period is more effective than teaching the same skills in a 13 or 14 week semester.

Student feedback has been positive.

I know that Vanderbilt Law has just launched a program that helps students transition from the classroom to the profession. are there innovative programs other schools would like to share? If so, I would be happy to link to them on this blog.


February 4, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)