Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Some think LegalZoom's future is not so bright after all.

Solo extraordinaire Carolyn Elefant at MyShingle.com wrote this post pointing out that Wall Street is not as enamored with LegalZoom as the legal futurists who believe it's going to put many lawyers out of business. Ms. Elefant notes that Wall Street's skepticism is due to the fact that despite a big advertising budget, LegalZoom so far hasn't generated much profit. That's because, she believes, unlike flesh and blood lawyers who develop relationships with their clients that often lead to repeat business, LegalZoom and similar providers offer a "one-off" experience which means they have to continually scare-up new customers to keep the proverbial lights on.

The LegalZoom IPO: Proving That Volume Practice Doesn’t Work, Even 21st Century Style

Academics and legal futurists may be  enamored by the Legal Zoom business model, the market sure isn’t.  As Legal Zoom readies to launch an IPO at $10 to $12 share, sources like  Reuters and The Street  are questioning whether a $483 million valuation is a tad “feisty” for a company that generated $156 million in revenues, but earned only $12 million in profits.  Combine that with looming lawsuits over UPL, and the fact that more than half of the stock is coming from existing shareholders (raising the question of why they’re not sticking around), and the future of Legal Zoom is looking just about as dim as the future of lawyers.

Or worse.  Legal Zoom’s $156 million in revenues are paltry in comparison to the $1 billion+ take of the 15 top firms in the AmLaw 100. And while big law attorneys work hard for their money, Legal Zoom works even harder.  According to this site, in 2011, Legal Zoom’s SEC filing said that it had 490,000 in 2011 – or 1300 a day.  Moreover, LegalZoom  spent $41 million on ads to lure them in a cost of around $81/lead. All for a measly $12 million in profits – which is the equivalent take home pay for  three partners at Quinn & Emmanuel.

Legal Zoom may be a new company, but the lesson is ancient: volume law practice is a struggle.  Even with all of the technology in the world, with a volume practice, you’re always on the prowl to  drum up more clients to feed the beast. That’s partly because volume practice requires bodies to serve, but also because volume work consists largely of “one-off’s” (clients with small matters who don’t come back) so you can’t leverage your existing marketing efforts.

Continue reading here.


July 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Our Incoming Students in 22 Years or So

The Department of Education has provided statistics on the 2010-11 class of kindergarten students. The data suggest that barring major changes in the society and educational system, most of our students in 22 years will look a lot like the current crop—little diversity. Many students from diverse backgrounds won't have the skills to succeed in law school, much less get in the door.

In the 2010-11 school year, 3.5 million children were first-time kindergartners in the United States.

Fifty-three percent were white, 24 percent were Hispanic, 13 percent were African-American, 4 percent were Asian, 4 percent were two or more races, 1 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native, and less than 0.5 percent were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

Twenty-five percent came from households below the federal poverty level. Eighty-four percent lived in homes where English is the primary language.

For example, Asian first-time kindergartners had higher reading and math scores than first-time kindergartners of other races and ethnicities. Whites outscored blacks, Hispanics, American Indian/Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders on reading and math.

Kindergartners in households below the federal poverty level had the lowest scores on reading and math, while students who came from homes at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level had the highest scores. And, as you would expect, assessment scores increased with parental education level.

Of course, kindergartners from homes where English is the primary language scored better in reading and math than their peers from homes where English was not the primary language.

NCES reported on one health indicator as well among the kindergartners: Body Mass Index, or BMI. And here again, there are no findings that go against the grain. Asians and whites were more likely to have a lower BMI than students of other races and ethnicities, while those who came from households below the poverty level had higher BMI.

Thnx to Education Week Spotlight.


July 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Pygmalion Effect and the Bottom Quarter of the Law School Class

A couple of days ago, one of my co-bloggers posted an inspiring story on the Pygmalion effect and a world-class athlete.   Does the Pygmalion effect apply to law students?  Do our students live up to and down to our expectations?

Many educators think the answer is yes.  Professors Jay Feinberg and Marc Feldman have argued, "[w]hat is primarily missing in legal school is an educational environment that provides students with resources and the situations with which they can best learn. When given appropriate instruction, nearly all law students can achieve mastery–not merely competence–of the skills of the novice lawyer."  Similarly, Professor Hillary Burgess has asserted, "By incorporating efficient and innovative teaching methods in law school, professors can teach more doctrine and more skills in the same amount of time."

So, how do we  help all our students achieve mastery?  Geoff Colvin is a strong proponent of the idea that effort is more important than talent.  (Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (2008)).  Colvin and many other education reformers believe that students fail because they don't use the proper learning methods and expend the necessary effort to achieve mastery of a subject.  As Professor Diane Halpern has remarked, "[i]t is important to separate the disposition or willingness to think critically from the ability to think critically. Some people may have excellent critical-thinking skills and may recognize when the skills are needed, but they also may choose not to engage in the effortful process of using them. This is the distinction between what people can do and what they actually do in real-world contexts."

What students need to succeed in law school are self-efficacy, engagement, deliberate practice, and reflection.  Self-efficacy relates most to the Pygmalion effect.  Self-efficacy involves four factors: (1) the student's current skill level, (2) the extent to which the student has witnessed modeling from peers and teachers, (3) verbal persuasion regarding the difficulty of the task, and (4) the student's current psychological state.  Of these, having a positive attitude and confidence in one’s self makes a student a better learner, and teachers can affect this confidence.

Daniel Kahneman has developed the idea of the "engaged" thinker. He writes, "[t]hose who avoid the sin of intellectual sloth could be called "engaged.’ They are more alert, more intellectually active, less willing to be satisfied with superficially attractive answers, more skeptical about their intuitions." In contrast, lazy thinkers are characterized by "a reluctance to invest more effort than is strictly necessary."  Simply stated, students can not attain mastery unles they become engaged learners because learning involves careful focus and considerable effort.

Being a successful student requires deliberate practice. Education researchers have identified two types of practice: practice to automaticity and deliberate practice. With the usual type of practice, a student practices a skill to attain automaticity, after which the skill can be executed with little effort.  On the other hand, "individuals engaged in deliberate practice tend to resist automaticity," and they "strive to continuously achieve mastery of increasingly higher levels of performance through the acquisition of more complex and refined cognitive mechanisms." (Robert J. Marzano et.al, Becoming a Reflective Teacher 1 (2012)).  Deliberate learners focus on the "not yet attained and challenging tasks beyond their current level of performance. . ." (K. Anders Ericsson et. al., Giftedness and Evidence for Reproducibly Superior Performance: An Account Based on the Expert Performance Framework (2007)).  As Corie Rosen and Hillary Burgess have stated, "only through deliberate practice, that process of doing, erring, feedback, and incorporating that feedback into subsequent efforts, will students become better learners, stronger performers, and, ultimately, experts in the field."

Finally, an important part of being a success student is being a reflective learner.  Reflective learners relate what they are learning to what they have learned in the past.  Reflective learners question what they are learning and consider alternatives.  Reflective learners think about what they have learned.   Finally, reflective learners are constantly evaluating their learning processes to see if they can do better.

In sum, by using recent educational scholarship we can help our students do better.  We should set high expectations, and we should try to reach all our students.  It will take a lot of effort on the part of both law teachers and their students, but it can be done.

For more details, see my article How to Become an Expert Law Teacher by Understanding the Neurobiology of Learning.

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips on good writing from the New York Times book review

Some of the eleven tips in this essay by Colson Whitehead from last Sunday's book review section are directed at budding novelists (like how to find a suitable topic and ways to break through writer's block) but at least two of them apply directly to lawyers and those who aspire to be. Nothing here you didn't already know but you might still find it worthwhile to pass this link along to your new students this fall.

How to Write

The art of writing can be reduced to a few simple rules. I share them with you now.

. . . .

Rule No. 4: Never use three words when one will do. Be concise. Don’t fall in love with the gentle trilling of your mellifluous sentences. Learn how to “kill your darlings,” as they say. I’m reminded of the famous editor-author interaction between Gordon Lish and Ray Carver when they were working on Carver’s celebrated short story “Those Life Preservers Are Just for Show,” often considered the high-water mark of so-called dirty realism. You’ll recall the climax, when two drunken fishermen try to calm each other after their dinghy springs a leak. In the original last lines of the story, Nat, the salty old part-time insurance agent, reassures his young charge as they cling to the beer cooler: “We’ll get help when we hit land. I’m sure of it. No more big waves, no more sharks. We’ll be safe once again. We’ll be home.” If you examine the Lish papers in the Lilly Library at Indiana University, you’ll see how, with but a few deft strokes, Lish pared that down to create the now legendary ending: “Help — land shark!” It wasn’t what Carver intended, but few could argue that it was not shorter. Learn to kill your darlings, and don’t be shy about softening them up in the hostage pit for a few days before you do.

. . . .

Rule No. 10: Revise, revise, revise. I cannot stress this enough. Revision is when you do what you should have done the first time, but didn’t. It’s like washing the dishes two days later instead of right after you finish eating. Get that draft counter going. Remove a comma and then print out another copy — that’s another draft right there. Do this enough times and you can really get those numbers up, which will come in handy if someone challenges you to a draft-off. When the ref blows the whistle and your opponent goes, “26 drafts!,” you’ll bust out with “216!” and send ’em to the mat.


July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Law schools hand-out lots of scholarship money to fill seats

Several stories have recently filtering out about the steps schools are taking these days to fill seats in light of the shrinking applicant pool (here, here and here).  This article from the Wall Street Journal  sums up what Professor William Henderson calls the "100 year flood" that's led to such scholarship largess.

More Law Schools Haggle on Scholarships

Getting into law school is easier than it used to be. But while the steady, postrecession drop in applications has made life easier for prospective students, it has posed new challenges for law schools.

Some schools are having so much trouble filling their seats that they are negotiating scholarships, accepting some applications long after formal deadlines, and offering up other perks to entice the best prospective students.

"I'm calling this the 100-year flood for law schools," said William Henderson, a professor of law at Indiana University and an expert in the business of law. "People are groping for models on how to deal with this but none really exist; we're in uncharted territory."

The schools' new strategies have arisen out of a period of turmoil for the legal academy that dates largely to the recession of 2009-10, when law firms, faced with shrinking demand for their services, laid off lawyers in droves and cut back on hiring recent law-school graduates. Hiring has bounced back somewhat since then, but it hasn't returned to prerecession levels.

As a result, law-school applications have fallen, and prospective students have gained leverage. Robert Rasmussen, dean of the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, said students have become increasingly "price sensitive," and are pushing back on tuition figures and scholarship offers. "Students are much more willing to raise this issue than they ever have been in the past."

Enterprising or cash-strapped students have long negotiated with schools over the price of admission. But more than ever, schools are listening. For instance, the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law earlier this year sent letters to admitted students encouraging them to bargain. "We very much hope you find this offer competitive with others you have received," read one letter, dated March 2012 and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. "Please let us know."

"It's an acknowledgment that it's a competitive market out there and there are going to be other competitive offers," said Robert Schwartz, dean for admissions and financial aid at UCLA's law school. "We want to keep the dialogue open."

Continue reading here.


July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The First American Book on Teaching Methods

The book was published in 1770. The author was Mennonite schoolmaster Christopher Dock. From Christian History:

His book was called Schul Ordnung, or School Management. Christopher Sauer I, a printer in Germantown, Pennsylvania, admired the good results that Christopher Dock produced with students by use of encouragement, kindness, and motivation. Christopher still believed in punishment, but his methods were milder than most. For example, he might put a yoke on a student who cursed; or require him or her to sit alone. Other teachers of the day relied more heavily on fear and whippings. Saur urged Christopher Dock to write a book explaining his methods. Dock prepared it around 1750, but then, for twenty years, refused to allow Saur to publish it. He did not want it released during his lifetime, afraid that it would look like he was trying to build a "monument" to himself.

Has anyone tried using a yoke? To be fair, Dock used some methods that resonate with today’s educational philosophy:

One of the modern things Dock did was to have the students in his two schools exchange their writings for comparison. He rewarded his pupils with chalk drawings on their hands and urged parents to further reward their children for good school work by giving them praise, pennies--and fried eggs. He recognized that "Different children need different treatment," because, as he said, "...the wickedness of youth exhibits itself in so many ways."


July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Teaching Professional Identity

One of the Carnegie Report's three apprenticeships is the "apprenticeship of identity and purpose," which "introduces students to the purposes and attitudes that are guided by the values for which the professional community is responsible."  This apprenticeship involves more than teaching students the rules of legal ethics.  It is intended to inculcate law students with the characteristics of professional identity.  In other words, law schools should teach students what it is like to be a lawyer, including their ethical duties to their clients, the courts, and the public.

David Thomson has been one of the leaders in emphasizing a "role in our pedagogy for the intentional formation of professional identity in our students."  He has a post on the subject at his blog here.  He labels his appoach the “Guidance Sequence for Formation of Professional Identity (GSFPI).”  This "sequence has four essential components.  1) An exercise or a writing assignment that sets up an ethical dilemma as it appears in practice; 2) An identification by the student of the ethical quandary raised in completing the assignment; 3) An expression by the student of the ethical issue and their reflection on their own decisions about how they decided to resolve the dilemma; and 4) Some form of feedback and response from the professor about the decisions and choices the student made."  He adds,

"In the Discovery class that I teach, every discovery document the students prepare offer opportunities for identification of ethical issues, and the memos that accompany each assignment specifically ask the student to explain the choices they made and reflect on how and why they made those decisions.  In the final step of the sequence, I provide margin feedback on their memos, and one of the criteria in the grading rubric on each assignment addresses the accuracy and quality of the identification of the ethical issue, and the depth and clarity of the reflection."

Professional identity is something that all law schools must instill in their students.  We can no longer sit around and ignore the professional failings of many of those in the legal profession.  Professor Thomson's approach is a significant method of dealing with this need.

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Cultivating justice for the working poor: clinical representation of unemployment claimants"

This article is by Professor Colleen Shanahan (Georgetown) and available at 18 Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol'y 401 (2011) and SSRN here. From the abstract:

The combination of current economic conditions and recent changes in the United States’ welfare system makes representation of unemployment insurance claimants by clinic students a timely learning opportunity. While unemployment insurance claimants often share similarities with student attorneys, they are unable to access justice as easily as student attorneys, and as a result, face the risk of severe poverty. Clinical representation of unemployment claimants is a rich opportunity for students to experience making a difference for a client, and to understand the issues of poverty and justice that these clients experience along the way. These cases reveal that larger lessons of justice can come from cases that are not classic poverty law representations, but are nonetheless tangible, personalized, and valuable sources of learning about justice and the poor.


July 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dept. of Ed Gives Schools a Model Template for Disclosing Financial Aid and School Costs

Colleges (and law schools) are often accused of giving students explanations of financial aid that are confusing and hard to compare with other offers. Now the Department of Education has released a standardized disclosure form, called a "Financial Aid Shopping Sheet” that would disclose all true costs of attendance.

The  National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is lukewarm on the template, argue for flexibility rather than a standardized template. However, one suspects that for most schools, a standard form is in the students’ best interests.


July 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two Lawsuits Against Law Schools Survive Motions to Dismiss

A California state court has denied demurrers by Golden Gate University and the University of San Francisco law schools in two of the consumer fraud actions brought by disgruntled alumni.  For those keeping score, the law schools have won two motions to dismiss (NYLS and Cooley) and lost three.  These two cases, along with the one against Thomas Jefferson, will now proceed to discover.  You can find the orders in these cases here and here.

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

How to Find Inspiration for Your Projects

One way is to stick with the work ethic—just keep plugging at the day-to-day work of the project—and inspiration will come.

Here is what legendary composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote to his benefactress:

Do not believe those who try to persuade you that composition is only a cold exercise of the intellect. The only music capable of moving and touching us is that which flows from the depths of a composer’s soul when he is stirred by inspiration. There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration. This guest does not always respond to the first invitation. We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.

A few days ago I told you I was working every day without any real inspiration. Had I given way to my disinclination, undoubtedly I should have drifted into a long period of idleness. But my patience and faith did not fail me, and to-day I felt that inexplicable glow of inspiration of which I told you; thanks to which I know beforehand that whatever I write to-day will have power to make an impression, and to touch the hearts of those who hear it. I hope you will not think I am indulging in self-laudation, if I tell you that I very seldom suffer from this disinclination to work. I believe the reason for this is that I am naturally patient. I have learnt to master myself, and I am glad I have not followed in the steps of some of my Russian colleagues, who have no self-confidence and are so impatient that at the least difficulty they are ready to throw up the sponge. This is why, in spite of great gifts, they accomplish so little, and that in an amateur way.

From Brain Pickings (July 24)


July 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A famous Olympian on the Pygmalion effect

So how about that opening ceremony, eh? 

Today's New York Times features a story about Sir Roger Bannister, a former British Olympian who never medaled but went on after the 1952 Helsinki games to break the four-minute mile barrier - something many thought was impossible at the time. Dr. Bannister, now 83 and one of Britain's top neurologists, talks about how he may not have set that milestone if it wasn't for a chance conversation on a train that morning with a coach who believed in his ability to succeed.

When Bannister ran the mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds at Oxford University’s Iffley Road track on May 6, 1954, he broke a barrier that had eluded the world’s top milers for decades, and ignited a renewed passion for athletics amid the hard graft of Britain’s early postwar years.

. . . .

On the morning of the record attempt, Bannister finished a shift as a trainee doctor at a London hospital, sharpened his spikes on a grinder in a laboratory, and headed for the Oxford train and what turned out to be the most telling encounter of a lifetime. Without that unplanned meeting on the train, he said, he would probably never have attempted the mile record that day, on what might well have been his last chance to break the four-minute mark.

The weather was foreboding. The end of his medical training was imminent, and with it his retirement as a runner. His pacemakers, Christopher Chataway and Chris Brasher, were increasingly hard to muster. John Landy, an Australian who was breathing down Bannister’s neck in pursuit of the record, was heading for Finland, then a powerhouse in middle-distance running, and his own assault on the mile barrier.

But on the train was Franz Stampfl, a sometime coach of Bannister, who mostly ran without one. A former javelin thrower and skier — and an Austrian Jewish refugee who had fled Hitler — Stampfl had arrived in Britain in 1939.

When World War II broke out, he was interned and then put aboard a boat that was taking him and other internees to Australia. But the boat was torpedoed off Liverpool, and Stampfl ended up in icy waters for hours, surviving when many others did not.

“He had suffered and survived through willpower and determination, and I had not previously met someone quite like that,” Bannister said of Stampfl.

And now, on the train, they talked.

“We looked out at the rain and he said, ‘You know, Roger, I think you have the potential to run a 3-minute-56-second mile, so even if the weather is bad you should make the attempt,’ ” Bannister recalled.

At the track, noticing the easing of the wind in the fluttering of England’s flag of St. George atop a neighboring steeple, Bannister decided that the moment had arrived. And it had.

Sir Roger is famously humble so perhaps he would have achieved greatness on his own anyway. But it sure makes a nice story.

There will always be an England.


July 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Law professors' responsibility to prepare students for pro bono work

This article, Clinical Professors' Professional Responsibility: Preparing Law Students to Embrace Pro Bono is by Professor Douglas Colbert (Maryland) and available at 18 Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol'y 309 (2011) and SSRN here. From the abstract:

This article begins by examining the current crisis in the U.S. legal system where approximately three out of four low- and middle-income litigants are denied access to counsel's representation when faced with the loss of essential rights - a home, child custody, liberty and deportation - and where most lawyers decline to fulfill their ethical responsibility of pro bono service to those who cannot afford private counsel. The article traces the evolving ethical standards of a lawyer's professional responsibility that today views every attorney as a public citizen having a special responsibility to the quality of justice.

The author suggests that law professors assume a critical role in law students' decision to embrace or reject its pro bono ethical obligation. The author focuses on clinical faculty and suggests that its leadership within the academy will be crucial to bridge colleagues' world of theory and doctrine, and to connect with practicing lawyers. He illustrates clinical faculty's unique opportunity to incorporate the Model Rules of Professional Conduct by referring to the law reform and individual representation work that his clinical students perform. The author concludes by declaring clinical education presents an ideal opportunity for teaching students to appreciate their professional responsibility to promote access to justice and to embrace pro bono service as an integral element of a lawyer's professional life.


July 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is Yahoo's New CEO a Bad Role Model for Women?

Marissa Mayer is named Yahoo’s new chair.  Her first act seems to be her announcement that she is expecting her first child. So far, so good. But then she announces, "My maternity leave will be a few weeks long, and I'll work throughout it” The cheering stops.

Critics argue that she is sending a message that works against maternity leaves. As a father and husband with a working professional wife, I think the difficulty is that this is her first child. She has no idea how hard that first few post-pregnancy months can be. And I suspect that she doesn’t realize how strong the maternal bond will be. If she has a second child, I suspect that she’ll want at least six weeks off, if not more. You can read more at The Careerist.


July 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bloomberg Law video: "Taking the Bar Exam: What It's REALLY Like"

The sights, the sounds, the smells of New York bar exam takers.  As they enter the Javits Center, hear test takers describe pre-exam jitters, talk about the atmosphere inside, explain why it's "like one of those movies from Berlin in 1930," and listen as a security guard answers the question: "What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen at the bar exam?"

Hat tip to Bloomberg Law.


July 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Writing Plainly: An Example

In his blog, “The Appellate Record,” attorney Kendall Gray sets out the introductory sentences of Texas Judge Wallace B. Jefferson in In re E.R. He also presents an alternative version that is inferior, because it is not plainly written. Here is the inferior version:

The constitution guarantees due process when the state invades a protected interest, such as when it seeks termination of parental rights. Due Process requires, inter alia, notice and an opportunity to be heard. Moreover, said notice must be provided in a fashion such as is reasonably contemplated to be received by the persons whose interests are at stake.

And here is what Judge Jefferson wrote:

When the State seeks to sever permanently the relationship between a parent and a child, it must first observe fundamentally fair procedures. The most basic of these is notice. If the State cannot deliver notice in person, it may try other means that will likely reach the parent.

Why is Judge Jefferson’s version better? Mr. Gray explains:

[T]he jargon is gone. The words are simple, and an abstract legal issue is made concrete and practical:

    • instead of the euphemism "termination of parental rights," you get the plain spoken "sever permanently the relationship between a parent and a child"--real consequences for a real person in this real case.
    • Instead of "due process" you get "fundamentally fair procedures"--the bottom line test of due process.
    • Instead of a formulaic recitation of elements you get "notice" that will "likely reach the parent."


July 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

William D. Henderson Course Portfolio On The Legal Profession

William D. Henderson has posted a course portfolio on the Legal Profession on the ETL Website.

Professor Henderson declares, "Law schools have an obligation not only to guide students to doctrinal competency, but also to prepare them for the practice of law. The Legal Profession course puts the study of the law into practical context through self-discovery, team interaction, and professional networking."

He descibes the course:

To accomplish these goals, Indiana Law’s Legal Profession course differs from other courses in several significant ways:

  • It is a mandatory first-year course in the spring semester, with four credit hours instead of the usual two hours.
  • It goes beyond the review of the ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility by putting the rules in context of practice in numerous settings.
  • It draws from the experiences of practitioners and upper-level students as a means of guiding students to the career choice that is right for them.
  • It uses personality and motivational assessment tools to help students identify their strengths, opportunities for development, and values and help align them with potential career opportunities.
  • It introduces students to real-life work settings by putting them into team-based projects; assessment includes both peer feedback (360° Review) and overall team grades.
  • It advances professional skills through a 1L competency model that focuses on active listening, empathy, self-awareness, asking questions, presentations, and resilience.
  • It uses outcome-based metrics to inform and influence future course design.

He describes the reasons for the course: "Among other findings, this research shows that the emphasis on professional ethics and values is largely absent from the first-year curriculum, which has the unintended effect of signaling marginal importance of these attributes to a lawyer’s long-term success. In addition, upper-level courses are less likely to include substantive discussions of professional ethics and values than first-year courses. Finally, the data show that lawyers who have achieved great success possess not only a deep understanding of substantive law, but also traits such as character, judgment, integrity, communication, and empathy."

He adds: "The course attempts to integrate and model all three of the Carnegie apprenticeships.  First, under the cognitive/analytical apprenticeship, the course identifies both the duties and areas of discretion that lawyer have under the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility. The course focuses heavily on decision-making in areas of broad discretion. Second, under the expert/skills apprenticeship, students are obtaining skills and experience in both collaborative and self-directed learning, which are essential skills of a 21st century legal professional. Third, the professional ethics/identify apprenticeship is targeted through the course subject matter and the inclusion of many practicing lawyers (approximately 35) who visit the Law School to give lunchtime talks on their careers and enable students to conduct on-site informational interviews."

"Lessons Learned.  This course has provided us with many lessons. Foremost, it is critical that faculty effectively communicate the course goals to students. Both in subject matter and teaching methods, this course is different from other 1L classes. In the minds of students, different is not better. In the absence of a compelling “why” explanation that is continually reinforced, student resistance will mount. Second, to obtain student buy-in, the course has to be well-organized and well-executed. It is very hard to do this the first time through. Third, this course requires collaboration and teamwork. We did not underestimate the importance of these competencies and administrators. We have grown as a result."

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Many of the 12,000 N.Y. bar exam takers express worry about job market

The N.Y. bar exam began today. From the New York Law Journal:

With Tight Job Market, Bar Exam Is a Portal to Uncertain Future

. . . .

Employment for law school graduates is at record-low numbers. The American Bar Association has reported that only 55 percent of recent law school graduates had landed a full-time law job.

Still, almost 12,300 tickets were issued to this year's two-day bar examination, with more than 4,000 issued for the Javits Center.

A Brooklyn Law School graduate named Stephanie, who declined to give her last name, said she had landed a clerkship with a criminal judge in Sussex County, N.J.

Although she likes tax and trust and estate law, she said she was "excited" by the clerkship opportunity, calling it a "good stepping stone."

The 32-year-old graduate noted that only five of her 15 friends in school have some type of employment lined up. The others had been concentrating on studying for the exam.

She added that she knew of graduates from last year who still have not found full-time work and have had to settle for temporary document review gigs.

A New York Law School graduate who only gave her first name, Elizabeth, said she has a job set to start next month with a firm doing trusts and estates work.

But she said some friends who lack jobs may stay in school to get a master's degree. Others plan to get their broker's license to sell insurance as a way to insert themselves in the trusts and estates field and then work toward a legal job.

"The big search starts in August," said Elizabeth.

Continue reading here.


July 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Plaintiffs' lawyers in Cooley law school scam suit consider appeal

Last Friday a federal judge in Michigan dismissed the fraud claim brought by former Cooley law school grads against their alma mater for allegedly misrepresented post-graduate employment stats. In an interview with the National Law Journal, lead plaintiffs' attorney Jesse Strauss said he is contemplating an appeal to the Sixth Circuit and that the district court ruling will not deter his team of lawyers from continuing to prosecute similar claims pending against other schools around the country. From the National Law Journal:

Counsel in Suit Against Law Schools Vow to Proceed Despite Dismissals

"Obviously, we're disappointed, but we're very proud of the work we've done," said Jesse Strauss, who along with attorneys David Anziska and Frank Raimond are coordinating the law school lawsuits around the country. "There's been a sea change in the quality of employment information. I don't think we're the only reason that happened, but I think we've been a factor. Still, I hope we're going to be able to move some money to the people who have mortgaged their future on these degrees."

Don LeDuc, Cooley's president and dean, said in a statement that the school was pleased with U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist's decision in MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, 11-cv-831.

"We are committed to graduating law students who are ready to practice law, and their success in a tough job market is our success too," he said. "We have always been in compliance with American Bar Association and National Association for Law Placement employment reporting standards."

. . . .

[Judge] Quist also rejected the plaintiffs' fraud claims, ruling that the figures Cooley provided for the percentage of graduates employed and average starting salary were "inconsistent, confusing and inherently untrustworthy," but not fraudulent.

"Plaintiffs and prospective students should have approached their decision to enter law school with extreme caution given the size of the investment," Quist wrote, citing the March finding by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Melvin Schweitzer.

Thelen said it seemed disingenuous for the plaintiffs to claim that they chose to attend Cooley solely on the basis of two job statistics for a class of students who graduated a year before the plaintiffs would enroll.

Strauss disagreed.

"It seems to me that these judges are imposing an extra layer of diligence on people going to law school," he said. "I don't think that's fair."

Strauss said he is contemplating an appeal, most likely on the Michigan Consumer Protection Act issue.

. . . .

It remains to be seen how Quist's ruling would affect the dozen pending fraud cases. Nearly all of the defendant law schools have filed motions to dismiss.

Strauss said he always assumed that the cases would be resolved by appellate courts.

"We're in this for the long term," he said. "We didn't think these cases would wrap up in a year."

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July 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teaching as Scholarship

Should teaching count has scholarship? In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professors Bruce Henderson and Frank Donoghue say yes—it’s part of consumatory scholarship. Let’s start with a definition of consumatory scholarship:

It’s essentially the lit review that every conscientious teacher—professor, graduate student or adjunct—conducts in the course of preparation to teach every class. It involves familiarizing oneself with the critical history of the text one is teaching, getting a general sense of the most recent scholarship about that text (if one regularly teaches Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, as I do, that’s a load), and preparing oneself to give the class at least a general cultural and historical context for what they are about to read. As Henderson points out, at a non-research-intensive university or liberal-arts college, that’s a much tougher job, because the instructor is typically teaching more courses and more varied courses.

The immediate question is how can administrators measure consumatory scholarship. Here is Professor Henderson’s  proposal:

We can evaluate consumatory scholarship in a number of ways. For example, faculty members can provide narratives about how they have incorporated new ideas and information into their teaching, research, and service when we submit annual reviews and tenure-and-promotion applications. We can keep logs and blogs on the knowledge we are consuming.

As we inside the university get accustomed to using the concept of consumatory scholarship, we can begin to use it more externally. Recognition of its role should appear in annual reports, news releases, and speeches. Faculty members and administrators should make governing boards, legislatures, and potential financial contributors aware of the dependence of effective teaching, competent productive scholarship, and useful public service on consumatory scholarship.

All he’s saying—and why couldn’t anyone else have thought of this—just keep records.

Good idea.


July 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)