Sunday, June 23, 2013
From Washington and Lee Law Faculty Scholarship Blog: "Washington and Lee University Professor Jim Moliterno has published the first book in a new series from West Academic Publishing focused on experiential education. The book, titled Experiencing Civil Procedure, is the first primary Civil Procedure course book to incorporate skills assignments into the book. The book actively involves students in the application of civil procedure concepts. It Includes three simple simulation cases, one contracts based, one torts based and one blended case. Sample documents from real cases are also included. Students using this book will engage in experiential learning exercises, including drafting the jurisdictional allegations for complaints, drafting very simple pleadings and motions, and responding to supervisor email messages. The book contains the statutes, rules, and edited cases that are the staples of traditional Civil Procedure casebooks, incorporating them into an experiential learning approach."
Today’s law professors are encouraged to use diagrams, flow charts, and other visual explanations in their classrooms. For most students, these devices are helpful. But for dyslexic students and mildly dyslexic students, they are a challenge. These students don’t see the diagrams as you see them and may not be able to decipher them.
The suggestion: When you use a visual explanation, be sure to explain what you are saying in words that do not require reference to the visual to understand the explanation. There is a place for linear explanations.
These tips come to us via Jim Calloway (this post is one he authored for the Oklahoma Bar Association blog but be sure to follow his excellent legal skills related blog - Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips Blog). Fastcase, as you may know, is a legal research engine offered free with bar membership in many states (check here to see if your state is one of them). Among the "top 10" tips and/or new features Jim is sharing for Fastcase are these:
Whether you’re a power user or use the service once in a blue moon, here are 10 “new” Fastcase tools that will help you work smarter.
- Interactive Timeline
In addition to text-based search results, Fastcase now includes a power data visualization tool that creates a visual map of search results. It allows you to see the most important cases at a glance. When you’re looking at search results, just click the “Interactive Timeline” tab at the top.
Forecite from Fastcase goes beyond your keyword search, using intelligent citation analysis to find cases you might otherwise miss. In a millisecond before displaying search results, Forecite automatically reads each case in the result list and builds a table of frequently cited cases. If seminal cases don’t appear in the search result (which is more common than you’d expect), Forecite will suggest them for you. It’s like having a safety net for your research.
- PACER Searching
Searching federal dockets with PACER is slow and difficult, especially if you have to search multiple courts. So Fastcase has worked with Justia to build a tool that can search across all PACER sites at once. It’s the depth of PACER with the power of Fastcase. You can also filter by state, court, date or type of suit. When you select a document you’d like to download, the tool takes you to the individual PACER site, where standard charges apply.
- Mobile Sync
Many lawyers in the state use Fastcase’s free iPhone, iPad and Android apps1 for legal research on the go. Traditionally, research done on the phone stayed on the phone, and research on the desktop stayed on the desktop. With Fastcase Mobile Sync, you can take your desktop research, favorites and search history on the road with you. You can also save cases from the iPhone or iPad and print them from Fastcase through the OBA. To sign up, simply log into Fastcase on the desktop and go to “Options,” “Mobile Sync.” Add the username and password from your mobile account, and Fastcase will automatically connect both accounts. If you registered for the app with the email address on file with the OBA, you’re already synched!
- Batch Printing/String Cites
Pulling up individual cases can be a hassle, even when you have the citation handy. Fastcase lets you pull up multiple cases at once, just by separating them with a comma. You can save them all to your print queue for later, print them individually, print the entire text of all the cases as one document, or simply print a list of the cases. Click the printer icon in search results, or when looking at a document, select “Add to my print queue.” If you have never printed a case with Fastcase, the result in the two column mode is beautiful. It will print as either a Word or PDF file.
Click here to read the rest of Jim's tips.
Hat tip to the Law Librarian Blog.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
From The Grio:
A council of federal judges in Washington will look into a misconduct complaint against a conservative judge who is alleged to have made racially discriminatory comments.
Judge Edith Jones of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allegedly said at speech in February that certain “racial groups like African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime,” and are “prone to commit acts of violence” and be involved in more violent and “heinous” crimes than people of other ethnicities.
On Wednesday, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts assigned the complaint to the District of Columbia Circuit after the 5th Circuit asked that it be transferred. The coalition of civil rights organizations that filed the complaint had requested that it be transferred out of the 5th Circuit.
You can read more here.
Maybe you already knew this but it was news to me - you can now create Word documents (but no spellcheck) on your iPhone, review PowerPoint slides as well as other features of the Microsoft Office suite. David Pogue from the New York Times provides a 60 second review of the Office for iPhone app here.
Friday, June 21, 2013
I want to recommend a book for your law library, Psychology for Lawyers by Jennifer Robbennolt and Jean Sternlight. (ABA 2012). Here’s the abstract:
Lawyers who can harness the insights of psychology will be more effective interviewers and counselors, engage in more successful negotiations, conduct more efficient and useful discovery, more effectively persuade judges and others through their written words, better identify and avoid ethical problems, and even be more productive and happier. Psychology for Lawyers introduces practicing lawyers and law students to some of the key insights offered by the field of psychology. The first part of the book offers a crash course in those aspects of psychology that will be most useful to practicing attorneys, including issues such as perception, memory, judgment, decision making, emotion, influence, communication, and the psychology of justice. The second part applies the insights of research to tasks that lawyers face on a regular basis, including interviewing, negotiating, counseling, and conducting discovery. In addition, the book offers practical suggestions for improving your practice -- suggestions that are grounded in the science of psychology. In short, by learning more about psychology and how to apply it, lawyers will be more effective, more successful, more ethical, and even happier.
Comprehensive in discussion, this guide discusses aspects of social and cognitive psychology that are most relevant to lawyering: perception, memory, judgment, decision making, emotion, influence, communication and the psychology of justice. The authors include clear writing drawing on lots of current and interesting examples, chapter summaries, and extensive endnotes and helpful bibliographies for each chapter for those readers desiring more depth on particular issues.
Lawyers have access to plenty of pop psychology and anecdotal advice about lawyering. What this book offers is scientific evidence for its statements. The authors back up their advice with the results of psychological experiments. There are also lots of confirming anecdotal stories as well. The book has a good deal of depth.
New legal skills scholarship on defining the competencies of the most effective and successful lawyers.
I'll join Professor Organ from the Legal Whiteboard blog in recommending that those interested in legal skills training take a look at this draft article by Professor Neil Hamilton (St. Thomas) entitled Law-Firm Competency Models and Student Professional Success: Building on a Foundation of Professional Formation/Professionalism. It's available on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Both law students and law schools have an opportunity created by the convergence of (1) significant employment market changes for law graduates, (2) sharp declines in law school applications, (3) increased applicant attention to each school’s employment outcomes, (4) law firm development of competency models to assess associate development, and (5) the high probability of accreditation changes emphasizing each student’s competency to represent clients and participate ethically in the profession. A law student who understands legal employer competency models can differentiate him or herself from other graduates by using the three years of law school to develop (and to create supporting evidence to demonstrate) specific competencies beyond just knowledge of doctrinal law, legal analysis, and some written and oral communication skills. Indiana law professor Bill Henderson notes that “there is a glut in the market for entry level law graduates. Further, virtually all lack the skills needed to differentiate themselves . . . .”
In Part I below, this essay analyzes all available empirical research on the values, virtues, capacities and skills in law firm competency models that define the competencies of the most effective and successful lawyers. Part II examines empirical evidence on the competencies that clients evaluate. Part III evaluates the competencies that make the most difference in fast-track associate and partnership promotions. These data and analyses lead to several bold propositions developed in Part IV:
1. Law students and legal educators should identify and understand the values, virtues, capacities and skills (the competencies) of highly effective and successful lawyers in different types of practice (one major example is law firm competency models analyzed below in Part I);
2. Each student should use all three years of experiences both inside and outside of law school (including the required and elective curriculum, extracurricular activities, and paid or pro bono work experiences) to develop and be able to demonstrate evidence of the competencies that legal employers and clients want in the student’s area of employment interest;
3. Law schools should develop a competency-based curriculum that helps each student develop and be able to demonstrate the competencies that legal employers and clients want; and
4. Both law students and law schools should understand that the values, virtues, capacities and skills of professional formation (professionalism) are the foundation for excellence at all of the competencies of an effective and successful lawyer.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Over the last few days, several blogs, including this one, have noted Professor Deborah J. Merritt's theory that Washington & Lee's experiential program is causing W & L's poor employment outcome. Quoting one of my co-bloggers, "In this post from the Law School Cafe blog, Professor Deborah J. Merritt analyzes the employment outcomes for Washington & Lee students and concludes that despite an innovative curriculum that has been roundly praised for its heavy emphasis on legal skills training, it doesn't seem to be producing the employment outcomes one would expect."
To quote Ira Gershwin, "It Ain't Necessarily So."
Professor Merritt is confusing chronology with causation. Just because B follows A does not mean that A caused B. A law professor should know this. To show that experiential programs cause lower employment outcomes, one would need a much larger sample than one law school over two years.
Also, Professor Merritt overstates some of her facts. For example, she states, "The College of William & Mary ranks a bit below Washington & Lee in US News (at 33rd) and operates in the same state. After excluding solos and school-funded positions (as my formula requires), William & Mary placed 55.9% of its 2012 graduates in full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar admission–significantly better than Washington & Lee’s results [at 49.2% for Washington & Lee’s 2012 graduates who obtained full-time, long-term jobs that required a law license.]" I do not think that any statistician would say that 55.9% v. 49.2% is significantly better. (Most law professors have little knowledge of statistics, and they don't realize when something is statistically insignificant.) Similarly, she writes, "The University of Iowa, for example, holds the same US News rank as Washington & Lee and suffers from a similarly rural location. Yet Iowa placed 70.8% of its 2012 graduates in full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar admission–more than twenty percentage points better than Washington & Lee." The Iowa and Virginia job markets are not comparable; comparing them is like comparing apples to oranges. Virginia is a market saturated with law schools, while the Iowa market has fewer law schools.
Most imortantly, Professor Merritt does not reveal that W & L's program was not fully implemented until the 2011-12 year. It is disengenous to blame W & L's experiential program for W & L's "noticeably dismal" job placement figures for 2011 when the program wasn't fully implemented until the next year. Also, what were the job placement figures before W & L implemented its program? Did they decline more, less, or the same than the decline in legal employment in general? Maybe, W & L has had a job placement problem for many years. (This is very hard to tell since the ABA has required detailed job placement figures only recently.)
So, why is W & L's job placement so poor when compared to other first-tier law schools? Some commenters have theories. Some think the poor job placement is caused by W & L's caerer services department. "I'm a recent graduate and I have to say - one of the reasons many students sincerely believe the statistics are so terrible is because W&L Law's office of career planning is, quite frankly, AWFUL. It is just...terrible. Students regularly hear horror stories about excellent firms contacting W&L to hire students, and the office of career planning simply won't respond or responds poorly. Students are consistently given bad advice about job searches, application processes, or resume/cover letter adjustments. The office of career planning makes little to no effort to reach out to new firms or create job fairs. Further, everybody working in the office is, by general consensus of the student body, incompetent. Although the problem of employment isn't entirely the fault of the office of career planning, it is clear based on student consensus and experience that they are largely to blame. This problem could, and MUST be solved by literally firing most of the staff in the career planning office. W&L has a policy of shuffling people around that have been at the law school for years but consistently underperform or provide no real benefit to the school...and unfortunately some of those people have ended up in career services. Either way, the new Dean needs to do a major renovation of this office, otherwise the school risks dropping down further in the rankings." (W & L Law Alum on Tax Prof Blog).
Likewise, "HTA, who posted above, hit the nail on the head. The problem with W&L students getting a job is, and always has been, the office of career services/planning. They are utterly incompetent--beyond worthless--and for some ungodly reason the school refuses to fix the problem. I have personally seen the total resistance the administration has to any meaningful change in this area, and it is infuriating. W&L students are as sharp and as well-rounded as any in the country and they get an excellent education from a stand-out faculty. The school is small but has a great alumni network, people who are very successful and well-connected all over the country and who are passionate about W&L. W&L has a culture and history that has a tendency to produce alums who are unusually proud of and loyal to their school. But career services utilizes none of these advantages and their incompetence in the various other areas mentioned by HTA above actively discourages firms from recruiting at/from the school. When I went to W&L Law, it was Top 20. The school really deserves to be top 15. If students had better opportunities for placement around the country, I guarantee you would see those rankings rise rapidly. It's the only thing really holding the school back." (W&Lee Law Alum on Tax Prof Blog)
Finally, "W&L Law Alum is right about the "Career Services" at that school. At the beginning of the last decade, the office was good: W&L's employment statistics were on par with other schools in the top 20, and were really amazing for such a rural school. (W&L also placed extraordinarily well into clerkships.) Sometime around 2004 or 2005, the people who had been in the office left and were replaced with people who, if I am not mistaken, had never done legal career services in their entire lives. W&L gives a great legal education to talented students, but it's a small, rural school that people have not heard of: it needs a good career services office in ways that other schools do not. Right around the middle of the last decade, W&L's employment stats began to tank. (Career "Services" started doing all these job fairs, so W&L students would have to buy plane tickets and hotel rooms to do screening interviews with big firms. If they got at least two interviews, they were required to attend, or would be kicked out of OCI for the rest of the year. When your school tells you that you need to shell out thousands of dollars to attend screening interviews - screening interviews! - you know there's a problem.) Look at the U.S. News that came out in fall 2007 or spring 2008, and you'll see that even back then, W&L's employment stats were dead last in the top 50 schools. That is appalling enough, but it's a professional school, not three more years of generic liberal arts. Yes, W&L has horrible employment rates, even after its revamped 3L curriculum. What you're all missing is that its employment rates were just as bad prior to the 3L curriculum. " (Another W & L Law alum on Tax Prof Blog)
Other comments: "We had a talk about the W+L program and it turned out they basically used adjuncts to fill up the third year. It doesn't work because it doesn't have much substance. The reality is that Rutgers and numerous other public law schools provide a better value than more expensive schools with trendy marketing devices." (Michael Livingston on Tax Prof Blog) "W & L's job placement figures have nothing to do with its third year program. W & L's reputation has been slipping with Virginia law firms over the last several years. The new program could help in the long run if law firms see that its graduates have improved." (Virginia Attorney on Tax Prof Blog)
In sum, chronology does not equal causation. While we should be looking closely at employment outcomes for law schools that are adopting educational reforms, Professor Merritt has not tied W & L's employment outcome problems to its third-year experiential program.
Others have defended the W & L program. For example, "As a professor who has taught in the new third-year program at W&L since its inception, I wanted to chime in regarding one dimension of the measure "success" that your article ignores, namely, whether the third-year program is achieving its goal of better preparing students for "the real world." To date, I have taught a civil litigation practicum to approximately 80 third year students. At the end of the semester, they possess more practical litigation skills than any first year associate that I ever observed while in private practice. And they know a heck of a lot more than I knew as a green, first year associate. I believe that many of my colleagues at W&L would make the same observation about their law students and their skills. In short, the third-year program is working splendidly. W&L Law School is producing graduates who can smoothly transition from law school to private practice. And I'm confident that, as more employers become familiar with this very new program, that employers will continue to be realize the quality of our students." (Todd Peppers on Tax Prof Blog)
In this video interview with Bloomberg Law, NALP's James Leipold talks about today's job report showing that BigLaw hiring of new associates was up in 2012 while overall hiring of law grads was down. Only 64% of the class of 2012 found employment that required bar passage, a figure that is the lowest water mark since NALP began keeping such statistics. On the plus side, Mr. Leipold said that BigLaw hiring has bounced back a bit from the recessionary lows though he does not expect to ever see those firms hiring again at pre-recessionary levels. Mr. Leipold attributes the low number outside of BigLaw to several factors including the fact that the class of 2012 was an especially large one, we're still feeling the effects of the Great Recession and that law practice is undergoing structural change for the reasons discussed by Richard Susskind and others.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Dean Nancy B. Rapoport has recently posted an important article on legal education reform on SSRN:
Abstract: "In this Essay, I suggest that we should think about how to create a curriculum that encourages students to develop a variety of skill sets. Law students simply don’t need three years of Socratic questioning regarding the fine details of court opinions. They need a wide range of experiences, preferably building on skill sets (like the twenty-six Berkeley factors) that effective lawyers have developed. A law school’s curriculum should have courses that focus on different factors in each year of law school. Ultimately, what we should be teaching law students is how to develop the judgment to advise clients. Teaching students how to think about the law is no longer – and probably never was – enough."
Other key points:
"What distinguishes good lawyering from mechanical lawyering is thoughtful, flexible, and comprehensive deliberation. Identifying relevant issues involves much more than legal analysis. It requires coming to grips with the complexity of real-life situations psychologically and sociologically as well as legally. An overarching, pedagogical goal of law school should be facilitating the cognitive and emotional development of students in ways that provide them with a sufficient foundation to become lawyers who, in pursuing their profession, are able to analyze problems in full context, which includes recognizing both patterns and uniqueness in different situations and knowing how to synthesize, prioritize, and apply appropriate breadth and depth of knowledge. Learning about law is pivotal, but it is not sufficient. The mindset needed entails being adept at drawing on knowledge from multiple sources and looking at problems from plural perspectives. It is the mindset of the fox."
"But on the theory that drastic change will take years, there is one thing that law schools could do right now to improve legal education: law schools could take a good, hard look at creating deliberate building blocks of skill sets."
"I know nothing about educational theory, so I don’t know if knowing any would help us teach better. All I know is that not knowing any means that we’re guessing about whether we’re teaching things in a way that enables students to master the material."
Comment: This has been a considerable amount of material written over the last thirty years on how students learn. This material is very helpful in understanding how we should be teaching students in law school. The fundamental principle is that active learning is vastly superior to passive learning. This scholarship has been summarized into several easily-readable books. The two best of these books are Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don’t Students Like School (2009) and Susan Ambrose et.al., How Learning Works (2010). Anyone interested in legal education reform needs to read these books.
"I believe that each year of law school should focus on different building blocks, so that a law student’s progression from the first semester to the last semester represents distinct skill sets rather than a replication of the skill sets taught in the first year."
In this post from the Law School Cafe blog, Professor Deborah J. Merritt analyzes the employment outcomes for Washington & Lee students and concludes that despite an innovative curriculum that has been roundly praised for its heavy emphasis on legal skills training, it doesn't seem to be producing the employment outcomes one would expect.
. . . .
Employers say they are eager to hire these better-trained, more rounded, more “practice ready” lawyers–and they should be. That’s why the employment results for Washington & Lee’s School of Law are so troubling. Washington & Lee pioneered an experiential third-year program that has won accolades from many observers. Bill Henderson called Washington & Lee’s program the “biggest legal education story of 2013.” The National Jurist named the school’s faculty as among the twenty-five most influential people in legal education. Surely graduates of this widely praised program are reaping success in the job market?
Sadly, the statistics say otherwise. Washington & Lee’s recent employment outcomes are worse than those of similarly ranked schools. The results are troubling for advocates of experiential learning. They should also force employers to reflect on their own behavior: Does the rhetoric of “practice ready” graduates align with the reality of legal hiring? Let’s look at what’s happening with Washington & Lee graduates.
. . . .
Washington and Lee’s employment outcomes for 2011 were noticeably mediocre. By nine months after graduation, only 55.0% of the school’s graduates had obtained full-time, long-term jobs that required bar admission. That percentage placed Washington & Lee 76th among ABA-accredited schools for job outcomes. Using the second, broader metric, 64.3% of Washington & Lee’s class secured full-time, long-term positions. But that only nudged the school up a few spots compared to other schools–to 73rd place.
In 2012, the numbers were even worse. Only 49.2% of Washington & Lee’s 2012 graduates obtained full-time, long-term jobs that required a law license, ranking the school 119th compared to other accredited schools. Including JD Advantage jobs raised the percentage to 57.7%, but lowered Washington & Lee’s comparative rank to 127th.
These numbers are depressing by any measure; they are startling when we remember that Washington & Lee currently is tied for twenty-sixth place in the US News ranking. Other schools of similar rank fare much better on employment outcomes.
. . . . .
What’s the Explanation?
Law school employment outcomes vary substantially. Geography, school size, and local competition all seem to play a role. But Washington & Lee’s outcomes are puzzling given both the prominence of its third-year program and the stridency of practitioner calls for more practical training.
. . . .
I think we need to explore at least four possibilities. First and most important, the connection between practical training and jobs is much smaller than practitioners and bar associations assert. Employers like practice-ready graduates because those new lawyers are cheaper to train; an employer thus might be more likely to hire a practice-ready graduate than a clueless one. Most of those hiring decisions, however, involve choosing among applicants, not creating new positions. A few employers might hire a practice-ready graduate when they wouldn’t have otherwise hired any lawyer, but those job-market gains are likely to be small.
Practice-readiness can even reduce the number of available jobs. If a practice-ready lawyer handles more work than a less-experienced one, her employer may need fewer entry-level lawyers. Even the best-trained new lawyer is unlikely to grow the client base immediately. The number of legal jobs depends much more on client demand and employer entrepreneurship than on the experience that new graduates possess. Maybe the employers recruiting at Washington & Lee have recognized that truth.
Second, even when allocating existing jobs, employers may care less about practical training than they claim. Law school clinicians have noted for years that legal employers rarely demand “clinical experience” as a prerequisite for on-campus interviews. Instead, their campus interviewing forms are more likely to list “top ten percent” or “law review.” Old habits die hard. Employers have maintained for the last few years that “this time we really mean it when we ask for practical skills,” but maybe they don’t.
Third, employers may care about experience, but want to see that experience in the area for which they’re hiring. This possibility is particularly troubling for law schools that are trying to expand clinical and other client-centered offerings. As a professor who teaches both a criminal defense clinic and a prosecution one, I can see the ways in which these experiences apply to other practice areas. A student who learns to discern the client’s individual needs, as our defense lawyers do, can transport that lesson to any practice area. A student who weighs competing interests in deciding whether to prosecute can apply similar skills for any employer.
Unfortunately, however, I don’t think employers always share my impression. Over the years, I’ve had the sense that students from the criminal defense clinic are stereotyped as public defenders, do-gooders, or (worse) anti-establishment radicals–even if they took the clinic for the client counseling, negotiation, and representation experience. Prosecution students don’t encounter the same negative images, but they sometimes have trouble persuading law firms and corporations that they’re serious about practicing corporate law.
No matter how many clinics and simulations a law school offers–and Washington & Lee provides a lot–each student can only schedule a few of these experiences. If a student chooses experiential work in entertainment law and intellectual property, does the student diminish her prospects of finding work in banking or family law? Does working in the Black Lung Legal Clinic create a black mark against a student applying to work later for corporate clients?
I wonder, in other words, if the menu of clinical choices we offer students actually operates against them. Would it be better to cycle all students through a series of required clinical experiences? That’s the way that medical school rotations work. Under that system, would employers better understand that all clinical experience has value for a new lawyer? Would they be less likely to lock graduates into particular career paths based on the clinical experiences they chose? These are questions we need to pursue as we expand experiential education in law schools.
A fourth possible explanation for Washington & Lee’s disappointing employment outcomes is that the students themselves may have developed higher or more specialized career ambitions than their peers at other schools. Some students may have been so excited by their clinical work that they were unwilling to accept jobs in other areas. Others, buoyed by employers’ enthusiasm for practice-ready graduates, may have held out for the most attractive positions on the market. If this explanation has power, then Washington & Lee’s graduates may fare better as more months pass. Maybe practice-ready graduates get better jobs, and perform better for their employers, but the matches take longer to make.
Continue reading here.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
From the Am Law Daily, a former partner who sued her former firm explains. This is the sort of article that law students need to read and reflect upon. Here are the opening paragraphs:
On the day she quit Greenberg Traurig and launched her own Philadelphia law firm three-and-a-half years ago, Francine Griesing knew what type of employer she wanted to be.
"I really wanted to create an environment where every woman or man who worked there could work without the fear you get in most traditional law firm settings," Griesing said Thursday during a panel discussion that was part of a daylong conference in midtown Manhattan focused on what it takes for women to succeed in the legal industry.
Griesing also knew what kind of office setting she didn't want to create: the kind she repeatedly came up against over the course of a 32-year legal career that took her from associate stints at Sullivan & Cromwell and other firms to a position as head of litigation for the City of Philadelphia's legal department to partner roles at various Am Law firms, including Greenberg. "At every stage," she told conference attendees, "I faced incredible obstacles that my male peers did not face."
Sarah Ricks teaches a constitutional litigation class at Rutgers-Law Camden. (here) You heard that right--a constitutional litigation class. In fact, she has written a casebook for the course, which is part of the Carolina Academic Press: Context and Practice Series. (sample chapter here)
The class "focuses on the constitutional and statutory doctrines necessary to litigate 4th, 8th, and 14th Amendment claims, and 1st Amendment religion claims that arise in prison."
The course includes both doctrine and skills: "The class, Current Issues in Civil Rights Litigation, casts students as lawyers handling simulated legal problems. Structured around 10 law practice simulations, the course allows students to creatively explore how attorneys shape and apply doctrine. Simulations include a jury charge conference; a meeting with a client to decide next steps in the litigation; a settlement conference before an appellate mediator; and testimony before a legislative body. In class, students often collaborate on short practical exercises based on how lawyers use doctrine in practice, such as drafting client interview questions or discovery requests."
The course has been very successful: "In anonymous evaluations that Penn permitted for use in this story, students praised Ricks’ Civil Rights Litigation course as: 'Superlative. Prof. Ricks exudes passion for this area of law. The entire design of the course is based around engaging students beyond the traditional realm of learning doctrine. She brought in guest speakers, provided examples about doctrine and practice from her own career, and wove in many lessons on practical aspects of being a litigator. She also encouraged debate and discussion that solicited conflicting opinions on many topics.'"
I cannot think of a better way to teach advanced constitutional law than the way Professor Ricks does in her class and her book. As I have said before, a lawyer needs to thoroughly understand doctrine to be able to draft discovery, meet with clients, and draft jury charges. In addition, learning theory has demonstrated that students remember doctrine better when they apply it. Simply stated, active learning is much more effective than passive learning.
P.S. Here are some comments on Professor Rick's book:
The practical approach of the course “is ahead of the curve when it comes to addressing the crisis in legal academia because these materials expose students to the practice of law prior to their entrance into a tight legal market,” notes Sahar Aziz, associate professor of law at Texas-Wesleyan.
“My students raved about the class. When I asked them whether I should use the book again, the answer was a resounding yes.”
Toledo Law School Professor Rebecca Zietlow said the practical approach was “refreshing”: “The students found the simulations interesting and challenging. They were incredibly engaged throughout the semester.”
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
One study suggests that the answer is no. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Logic would suggest that lecturing to students in a clear, fluid style while making frequent eye contact would engage students and aid in their learning. At the very least, many people would assume, that technique would be more effective than hunching over a podium, reading from notes, and barely pausing to look up.
But that may not always be the case, according to a study published last month in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
Students who watched a lecture delivered in the clear and fluid style, which is described in a report on the study as "fluent," were about twice as likely as those who watched the haltingly delivered, "disfluent" one to believe that they would remember the material they had just learned.
But both groups actually remembered about the same amount, with the students who had watched the disfluent lecture more accurately predicting how well they recalled the material.
Of course, this is just one study, but it does give pause.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Several San Francisco area law firms interviewed for this story from The Recorder via Law.com explain that the emphasis in this year's summer associate programs is on practical training rather than leisurely lunches and nights on the town. The shift in emphasis is because firms need their summer hires to become productive more quickly than ever before due to financial pressure from clients. Nor are this year's crop of summer associates complaining about the scaled back social calendar; they're just happy to have jobs.
Gone are the days of cruises and caviar. These days, law firms' summer associate programs are more like boot camp for lawyers-in-waiting.
At least that's what's in store for law students arriving at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, where the summer kicks off with an exercise that chief talent officer Robert Williams calls "basic training." For two weeks, the firm's summer associates face off in teams of two to try a case from start to finish, from gathering evidence to preparing closing statements. The activity culminates with a trial before a jury of six Sheppard Mullin employees and a real-life judge.
It's a far cry from the classic Big Law summer of memos followed by cocktail hour, Williams notes.
"We're way beyond that," he said. Even in the dog days of summer, neither firms nor the students that began arriving at the end of May have time for those rituals. With clients enjoying greater bargaining power after the recession, firms need to staff matters with associates armed with real skills. Law students can't ignore the market dynamics either. An informal Recorder survey of 11 firms conducted last fall found that this summer's San Francisco Bay Area classes are 40 percent smaller than they were in 2007. The students who land the coveted spots report to the office in top form, said Stephen Venuto, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe's firmwide head of on-campus attorney recruiting.
"Their focus in previous years was on having a great time and making sure the firm was a good place to work," said Venuto, a Silicon Valley-based corporate partner. "Now they're focused on understanding what it's like to be a good lawyer so they can be one sooner."
Firms have responded to that call by stepping up the training they deliver. For the past few years, Fenwick & West has called upon its professional development staff to deliver a wider range of programming to summer associates. In addition to delving into the practice of law with clinics on depositions and negotiations, Fenwick also tries to impart the softer skills that associates need to navigate the firm, said Julieta Stubrin, Fenwick's director of attorney recruiting and diversity. One writing course centers on internal communications.
"They learn how to write a brief email that will get the partner's attention right away," Stubrin said.
Continue reading here.
In producing “practice ready lawyers” law schools sometimes overlook the importance of legal writing skills. In her recent op-ed piece in the National Law Journal, Sherri Lee Keene (U. Maryland Law School) persuasively argues that legal writing is an active learning activity that law schools should emphasize. Here is a brief excerpt:
Engaging in legal writing has many learning benefits. The act of writing affords the writer an opportunity to think through a legal problem, engage deeply with the law and facts, and expand her knowledge of the law and practice. By analyzing legal problems and developing her ideas through the writing process, a student better understands the substantive law and procedure relevant to an assignment. In discussions with the professor on writing assignments and from feedback received, a student learns to make professional decisions and gains confidence about the prospect of practicing law. Work on writing assignments offers a student an opportunity to apply her knowledge of the law in a practical context, with the benefit of expert guidance.
On the eve of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, General Eisenhower recognized that victory was far from certain. He wrote a letter that he would send if the invasion failed. It stated:
Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.
My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
Here is the letter in Ike’s hand writing. (Note: He got the date wrong).
There’s a lesson here about leadership. When your efforts fail, you don’t blame others. You take responsibility. Here is an article making this point from the Lebanon (PA) Daily News.
Here is Ike’s message to the troops prior to the invasion.
Thnx to Sen. Toomey (PA)
Sunday, June 16, 2013
David Trickett discusses the formation of professional identity in law students in a video here.
"In this video, Trickett discusses the formation of professional identity in law students and the capacity to better serve clients. Trickett goes on to contemplate the most effective ways in which we can help instill a professional identity in law students, through mentoring, a focus on service, and an institutional trajectory by schools that seeks to engage students in fundamental considerations of what it means to be a legal professional."