Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Legal research companies in the news

Law Technology News is reporting that LexisNexis is laying off perhaps as many as 500 employees (it employs 15,000 worldwide) through the company hasn't confirmed the precise number.  According to an anonymous source that LTN contacted, the lay-offs are "significantly" larger than the company's "usual July realignment" and that offices in New York, Dayton (Ohio), the Philadelphia area and Charlottesville (Va.) will be affected.

In other legal research new, Bloomberg Law announced (here too) that it will be rebranding the company as "Bloomberg BNA" effective January 1, 2014.  According to the company, the move comes in response to requests that it place under one roof all of its client services which include legal research, business intelligence and insight, and BNA content.   Before making its decision the company consulted with constituents that included first year law students, law firm chairs and corporate counsel according to an email sent to clients explaining the change.

Hat tip to the Law Librarian Blog.

(jbl).

July 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Attract Students to Your School

At a recent conference of college admissions officers, the
answer was persistent communication. Here is an excerpt from the Chronicle
of Higher Education

What has changed, however, is how and how much
colleges need to communicate with students, said Richard Whiteside, an expert
on strategic enrollment with the consulting firm of Royall & Company.
“Students listen when they’re ready. We need to speak all the time,” he said.

If anything, colleges should be intensifying their
efforts to attract students, especially through what the admissions experts
called a “search,” meaning direct marketing to prospective students. And the evidence
shows
that the most effective way to increase applications is to reach out
to prospective students multiple times through multiple media.

There was a time when faculty had nothing to do with admissions. However, in
these difficult times, at many schools like mine, faculty members are heavily
involved—emails, phone calls, having potential students sitting in class,
meeting potential students at admitted student days.

(ljs)

July 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Much Experiential Legal Education is Enough?

Karen Tokarz, Peggy Maisel, Bob Siebel and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez ask this question in a new article.  (Preview here)  Lopez writes, we suggest "that  about one third of the curriculum would be ideal.  We suggest the courses should be spread throughout the three years (we include legal research and writing as a “skills” course.)  We believe that this amount would capitalize on the legal knowledge and analytical skills they develop in the  traditional  law school classroom and would help students better understand the values and develop the skills they need to become successful lawyers.   Simulation courses  such as trial practice, moot courts, negotiation and counseling, alternative dispute resolution, etc would help students develop and perfect the technical skills and well designed hybrid courses, externships and clinics would help students integrate the skills, knowledge and values that will enable them to develop as competent and ethical lawyers."

I agree that this is about the right amount.  I would add two things.   First, all doctrinal classes should have a problem-solving element.   General learning scholarship has shown that students remember more and can manipulate knowledge better when they apply what they have learned to solve problems.  Second, I want to emphsize that law schools should add advanced skills courses beyond the traditional skills offerings.   Law schools could offer courses that combine doctrine and experiential approaches, such having a class that teaches environmental law and simultaneously goes through the steps in litigating an environmental law case.

Update: I am not the only one who believes that skills should be incorportaed into doctrinal courses.  This morning, Christine Chabot posted the following at Concurring Opinions:

"Historically, skills training was not part of the education students received in law school. Things have changed, of course, and recently many have emphasized the need for practice-ready law grads. Incorporating skills training in substantive courses offers one promising option for improving students’ education. I’m prepping Sales (UCC Article 2) for the fall, and the course seems to lend itself well to a more skills-oriented approach. I plan to use problem-solving exercises and assignments which will not only teach students the law governing sales of goods, but will also enhance their statutory and contractual interpretation, drafting, and client-counseling skills. I have extensive experience litigating contractual disputes, so I know these skills are essential for commercial litigators. And they seem equally important to transactional lawyers."

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top corporate counsel and ATL columnist Mark Herrmann on the importance of good legal writing

Mr. Herrmann, who is Chief Counsel at a top, global risk management and insurance firm as well as author of the bestselling The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law, recently discussed the importance of good writing to the practice of law in his regular column over at Above the Law.  Mr. Herrmann was responding to a reader email related to another post in which he was accused of overemphasizing the importance of this key legal skill.  The correspondent in question argued that writing is merely one of several skills lawyers have to master and that many of those other skills, such as the ability to take a good deposition or strategize about defenses, often play a much larger role in the outcome of the case than the lawyer's ability to write a good brief.  In response, Mr. Herrmann reaffirmed his belief in the primacy of good writing as the single most important lawyering skill because it's where the rubber meets the road in terms of the attorney's ability to organize, analyze and persuade. 

Overemphasizing The Value of Good Legal Writing

Why do I value good writing?

First, because “good writing,” defined broadly, picks up much of what my correspondent frets about. A good brief reflects the author’s ability to read cases, choose issues, cull facts, apply law to fact, and persuade. Thus, insisting on “good writing,” broadly defined, is simply insisting on good lawyering.

But I emphasize — and perhaps overemphasize — good brief-writing for a second, practical reason: It’s what I can see and evaluate.

If I were part of outside counsel’s litigation team, studying the documents, working with witnesses, and reading the cases, then I could evaluate every aspect of outside counsel’s performance. I could tell whether she was pursuing the right leads, preparing witnesses intelligently, picking the right fights, taking good depositions, and making maximum use of the cases.

But that’s not where I sit. I’m responsible for all litigation involving my company everywhere in the world, and that puts me a fair distance from the day-to-day litigation team. I’m not personally reading the old emails and poring over the documents to cull the critical facts. Virtually everything I learn about our cases comes secondhand, screened by an intervening mind that has chosen to include some facts and omit others. Unless outside counsel makes some obvious mistake — telling me, for example, that, given a choice, I should prefer to sue in California to enforce the covenant-not-to-compete — I can’t judge the quality of his legal analysis or critical thinking.

In a typical case, I get one unfiltered view of counsel’s brain: The brief. If the introduction is incomprehensible, then I no longer trust your legal work. If the appellate brief doesn’t mention standard of review, then you’re either inept or don’t know when you’ve strayed beyond your competence; either way, you’ve turned me into a skeptic. If you use long block quotes or the passive voice repeatedly, then you don’t know how to persuade. When my one unfiltered view of your brain suggests that you’re not very good, why should I take it on faith that the rest of your game is actually great? Because you say so?

Check out the rest of Mr. Herrmann's argument that legal writing is the litmus test for good lawyering generally from a guy whose job it is to hire and then assess the performance of outside counsel.

(jbl).

July 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Talking about Pricing with Clients

At Attorney at Work, law management consultant Sally Schmidt
offers this advice:

If you were to believe everything being written about legal services today, you
might think lawyer-client relationships have boiled down to one thing: pricing.
Yet in my conversations with clients, fees rarely are the first thing mentioned
or the most important factor used to evaluate relationships with outside
counsel.

Now don’t get me wrong. All clients are cost-conscious, particularly these days. In
interviews, clients consistently say things like:

  • “We are always keeping
         an eye on costs.”
  • “I tell them, ‘You’ve
         got to be cost-conscious.’”
  • “Do I wish the cost was
         lower? Yeah, that would be great.”

But even those sentiments don’t mean you have to engage in cost-cutting or
discounting. What clients usually want are better communication about,
sensitivity to and management of costs.

To read her suggestions, please click here.

(ljs)

July 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 29, 2013

UCLA School of Law seeking Associate/Assistant Dean for Clinical Education, Experiential Learning, & Public Service.

Here are the details:

The UCLA School of Law is seeking a highly talented and enthusiastic individual to serve as a key member of the Dean’s administrative team as Associate or Assistant Dean for Clinical Education, Experiential Learning, & Public Service.  Reporting directly to the Dean of the law school, the Associate/Assistant Dean will work closely with the Faculty Vice Deans, the Associate Dean for Curriculum and Academic Affairs, as well as with multiple faculty, other administrators, and staff within the law school. 

The Associate/Assistant Dean also will serve as a liaison between the Dean’s Office and the faculty’s Experiential Learning & Skills, Externship and Public Interest Committees.  The Associate/Assistant Dean will participate in the Law School’s academic and curricular planning with the aim of expanding and promoting excellence in clinical, experiential, and public service programs including the Clinical Program, the Lawyering Skills Program, the Externship Program, and the Office of Public Interest Law Program.  A key responsibility will be overseeing the implementation of the comprehensive expansion and reorganization of the clinical program approved by the faculty.  Overall, these duties will require the Associate/Assistant Dean to build strong relationships within the law school community and to think strategically about law school objectives.  The Associate/Assistant Dean will be expected to devote at least 25% of his/her time to teaching in one of the programs that s/he oversees. 

Candidates must have the background and familiarity with clinical legal education, legal skills training, externship development and supervision, and public service programs that enable him or her to understand and participate in the academic program, write substantive academic plans and personnel reviews, and to exercise creativity and good judgment about the law school program in general and in particular about the functions the Associate/Assistant Dean directly supervises. 

Minimum requirements include an excellent academic record; a J.D. or equivalent advanced degree; at least five years of successful law practice, legal academic, or related experience; demonstrated management, administrative and organizational skills, with successful prior experience in legal curricular and academic planning preferred.  The successful candidate must be committed to professional creativity which may include research or other creative work, such as professional publications, law reform activities, significant contributions to the profession or professional organizations and University or public service as part of their appointment. 

The salary, title, and level of appointment will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.  This is a year-round, non-tenure track, academic position.  This appointment is subject to the rules and regulations of the Regents of the University of California which are mostly embodied in The UCLA CALL and the University of California Academic Personnel Manual.  (See https://www.apo.ucla.edu/policies/the-call; and http://www.ucop.edu/acadpersonnel/apm/welcome.html.)

Confidential review of applications, nominations and expressions of interest will begin immediately and continue until an appointment is made.  To ensure full consideration, applications should be received by Monday, September 30, 2013 but will be considered thereafter until the position is filled. 

Please apply online at https://recruit.apo.ucla.edu/apply/JPF00047 by submitting a cover letter, resume, and the names and addresses for at least two professional references to the attention of: 

Edna Sasis

Office of the Dean

UCLA School of Law

Box 951476

Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476

The University of California is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer, and seeks candidates committed to the highest standards of scholarship and professional activities and to a campus climate that supports equality and diversity.

(jbl).

 

July 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do Students Prefer to Read in Print or on an Electronic Screen?

 

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

E-reader use is on the rise, and the textbook market is shifting toward customizable digital
products.
Are students ditching print in favor of electronic alternatives
for their academic reading? A forthcoming small study from the City University
of New York asked that question and found that, like previous generations, at
least some Millennials still prefer reading long texts and academic selections
in print.

The study, “Student Reading Practices in Print and Electronic Media,” to be published in
September 2014 in the journal College & Research Libraries,
tracked the reading habits of 17 CUNY students through diary entries,
interviews, and discussion groups over the course of two weeks. The students
were mostly juniors, seniors, and graduate students, and most were younger than
25.

The research found that they almost always used e-book readers, mobile
devices, and tablet computers for nonacademic reading but relied on paper
printouts for academic reading.

You can read more here.

(ljs)

July 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

No Law Student Left Behind

No Law Student Left Behind by Deanell Tacha.

Abstract: Dean Tacha examines legal education through the lens of the "no child left behind" discourse. Inspired by the controversy generated by this federal legislation focusing on elementary education standards, Dean Tacha evaluates legal education borrowing themes from the debate. She begins her analysis by acknowledging the critical role that lawyers play in modern society. Lawyers preserve the legacy of freedom and justice for all. A good legal education is an important component of protecting the rule of law for generations to come. Dean Tacha challenges legal professionals to come together in common cause to address the current models of legal education to better serve the profession, the nation, and the world for the future. As part of her analysis, Dean Tacha assesses the economic value of a legal education, the "teaching to the test" aspect of legal education, the need for legal education to prepare new lawyers for a rapidly changing legal environment while also instilling some of the age-old skills of the generalist lawyer, the role of the legal profession in shaping legal education, the role of lawyers in our nation and in the world, and how legal education can and should evolve to meet these challenges.

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Public opinion surveys find people have low opinion of attorneys but still want their kids to become one

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports the somewhat contradictory results of two recent public opinion surveys, at least one of which might help explain why law school applications haven't declined even more given all the bad publicity about the state of the legal job market.  According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, most of the American public thinks attorneys don't contribute much to society's "well-being."  Indeed, lawyers ranked at the very bottom of the professions that were the subject of the survey which included the military (ranked highest), journalists and business execs.  Yet in another survey conducted by Lawyers.com, at least two-thirds of the parents who were asked said that they would like their children to become lawyers (or at least marry one).

According to the survey, 64 percent of parents hope their children will grow up to pursue legal careers. The results suggest the legal field is a particular aspiration for lower income families, with 80 percent of parents who make less than $25,000 per year saying they would like their child to become a lawyer, versus 54 percent of parents who make at least $75,000.

Becoming lawyers may even make kids look better to their future mothers-in-law, with 55 percent of moms expressing interest in their children marrying attorneys. They might have a little trouble with fathers-in-law, however — only 38 percent are so eager to give their blessings.

“Being a lawyer means being a respected professional, and that’s something that parents want for their children,” said Larry Bodine, Esq., editor-in-chief of Lawyers.com. “Despite the tough economy facing the next generation, it’s exciting to note that nearly two-thirds of parents would be happy with a law degree in their child’s future.”

Click here for the original WSJ post (though a subscription may be required).

(jbl).

July 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Are the Billing Rates for Lawyers?

You may be surprised how high they are. From Corporate Counsel:

For in-house counsel who want to do some comparison
shopping on law firm billing rates, a new analysis from TyMetrix Legal
Analytics and CEB shows that firms charged the most for finance and securities
work last year, and that partner rates in New York outpaced those in any other
U.S. or Canadian city by more than $100 an hour.

The “2013 Real Rate Report Snapshot” draws on $9.5 billion worth
of invoices submitted to 83 corporate clients from 2008 to 2012. The dataset
encompasses more than 4,800 U.S. law firms and 29.1 million hours billed by
partners, associates, and paralegals.

New York tops a list of 12 cities with the
highest average partner rates for 2012—all with hourly rates above $500:

  1. New York: $755.68
  2. San Francisco: $651.33
  3. Washington, D.C.: $649.24
  4. San Jose, CA: $634.98
  5. Toronto: $634.24
  6. Los Angeles: $620.34
  7. Boston: $598.69
  8. Chicago: $585.47
  9. Calgary, AB: $578.13
  10. Houston: $549.25
  11. Dallas: $510.32
  12. Philadelphia: $516.56

Law firm size, not surprisingly, has an important effect on rates, too—the bigger the firm,
the bigger the hourly bill. Here’s how hourly rates compare according to the
number of lawyers in a firm, again through the lens of average partner rates in
2012:

  • 1 to 50 lawyers: $342.95
  • 51 to 100 lawyers: $380.35
  • 101 to 250 lawyers: $422.35
  • 251 to 500 lawyers: $531.62
  • 501 to 1,000 lawyers: $638.23
  • More than 1,000 lawyers: $727.02

Not only did firms with 500-plus lawyers have the highest rates in 2012, but they also
increased their rates more than smaller firms did, “by 5.6 percent—more than
two times the average lawyer rate increase at smaller law firms with fewer than
100 lawyers,” according to the report.

(ljs)

July 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Write Like a Supreme Court Justice?

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf gives this
advice:

Justice Scalia writes smack. You can't. Justice
Kennedy waxes grand eloquent. You can't. Justice Breyer writes simply.
You should.

You can read more of Judge Kopf’s
advice here. Warning: The language is a
bit salty.

(ljs)

July 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Interesting Writing Exercise: Correcting Tweets

At a school in Brazil, students studt English by correcting grammar and punctuation erros in cwelebrity tweets. Example:

Here, for instance, is Sylvestor
Stallone’s tweet: A great quarterback is only as strong as his team,Right?
The MAN need a stronger line, people!
Eight-year-old Theo, wisely ignoring
the elided space and unnecessary capitalization of Right, kindly directs
Mr. Stallone to use needs instead of need. Which may be what Mr.
Stallone intended; or it may be that he was trying to access a street At a
school in Brazil, students study English by correcting grammar and punctuation
errors in vernacular that has legitimacy in the appropriate setting but does
sound silly here, even coming from Rocky.  The same goes for Justin
Bieber’s That was a long bus ride. But we here, on which 9-year-old
Maria comments Watch out: it’s “we’re here” not “we here.”

You can read about it here.

(ljs)

July 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips for using Microsoft's "Text-to-Speech" feature to improve proofreading

A tried and true proofreading technique is to read to yourself out loud the text in question as a way of catching errors.  The shortcoming of this method, though, is that we tend to read what we think is on the page rather than what's actually there (it's due to the way our brain tends to automatically fill in the gaps for us).  One solution suggested by the Business Writing Blog is to use a Microsoft program available for Office 2010 called "Text-to-Speech" (for Windows 7 it's called "Narrator") that reads the text out loud for you.  Click here to get instructions on how to download and install both versions.

(jbl).

July 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Resolutions Before the ABA House of Delegates

The ABA's
House of Delegates will convene during the course of its Annual
Meeting
in San Francisco on August 12 and 13 and will consider
proposed Resolutions submitted by its constituent organizations. You can review
the Resolutions with Reports on the ABA's House of Delegates website . The resolutions at
the very end of the list are the ones most relevant to law school.

(ljs)

July 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A new, free legal research tool called Casetext

There's a new legal research tool in town called Casetext and it's free.  According to one of the co-founders Joanna Huey, a former president of the Harvard Law Review, Casetext is a free, searchable legal database that invites users to annotate the sources. It works something like a wiki in that user annotations allow other readers to find related legal documents, articles and commentary noted in the screen margin.  Check out a sample for the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Grokster here.  There are other cool features like a quick fact summary for each case and a designated "case wiki" where, presumably, users will add general commentary.  You can access a beta version of  Casetext.com here as well as take a free tour here.

The blog Legal Research Plus, which is a great resource for new developments in legal research, has a nice write-up of Casetext too.

(jbl).

July 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Harvard Law Professors Suggest New Case Method

Elizabeth Maroney writes on the Harvard Law School: The Case Studies Blog, "in 2007, Harvard Law School Professors Martha Minow (now HLS Dean) and Todd Rakoff were among the first to point out that the status quo just wasn’t working."  She continues, "Their solution turned the case method on its head. In 'A Case For Another Case Method,' Minow and Rakoff argue that the case method provides more 'known' facts of the problem than situationally exist. They explain that retrospection hardly opens up the spectrum of options—it is difficult to imagine what might have been. Above all, they point out that our society now has a different conception of truth, one based on construction rather than discovery.  Experiential education, on the other hand, provides agency and teaches students 'how to think like a lawyer.'"

Their solution: "Minow and Rakoff propose that in addition to clinics (which can be costly), law schools should adopt the case study method, popularized by the Harvard Business School. These concise, inexpensive documents explain a dilemma from the perspective of a participant or organization.  Rarely are there precise answers, but the education lies in the process: thinking through problems, practicing skills like drafting memos and interacting with clients, and understanding more about human nature in legal crises. Bonus: research suggests that experiential education makes law students happier."

Maroney concludes: "But as Minow and Rakoff note, educators must get on board as well: 'Frankly, many of us will need to learn some new things. … We are supposed to keep up with what is happening in our fields.'"  (You can read the rest of the article here.)

Harvard has long been a leader in legal education.  With the Harvard Law School Dean on board, can major legal education reform be far behind?

(Scott Fruehwald

July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

U. Denver launches accelerated undegrad-to-JD track

One of the goals is to lower the overall cost to students of obtaining a BA/BS followed by a JD by reducing the time commitment from seven years to six.  The new joint program will begin in fall 2014.  From the University of Denver's press release:

With an increasing focus on the cost of higher education and reducing the amount of money and time individuals spend on their formal education, the University of Denver now offers a joint degree program in which students can earn a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in six years instead of the typical seven.

The 6-year Bachelors/JD Program will place the University of Denver among the ranks of just 16 other institutions across the United States that offers similar degrees. Currently, there are no such courses of study in Colorado.

 

“Students admitted to the program will spend the first three years of their DU careers fulfilling all of the requirements of their undergraduate education,” said Martin L. Katz, Dean of the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver. “Their next three years will be spent fulfilling the requirements of the Juris Doctor degree.”

 

By double-counting 39 hours of graduate law classes as elective undergraduate credits, students in the 6-year Bachelors/JD Program will be able to complete the requirements for the two degrees a year early.

 

There are two opportunities for entrance into the program: pre-first year admission and junior year admission.

 

Pre-first year admissions will be limited to students who have excellent pre-admission predictors of college and graduate school success. These predictors include superb high school transcripts and premium SAT scores for high school graduates and accomplished college transcripts for undergraduate students. These scholars will have an interview with the College of Law Admissions Committee or its delegate. Those with a strong and informed interest in a law school education and a high level of maturity can be admitted to the direct admissions track.

 

University of Denver undergraduates in their junior year can apply for the 6-year Bachelors/JD Program. Such students must have completed all requirements for their undergraduate education by the end of their junior year.

 

“More students today are seeking multiple degrees,” said Katz. “They recognize that getting a graduate degree, in addition to their B.A. or B.S. degree, makes them more competitive in the job market.”

 

Katz adds that this course of study will demand strict attention from its students.


“Requirements for this program are rigorous,” Katz said. “We anticipate enrolling a small number of DU undergraduate students with excellent academic credentials and a strong desire to pursue the many rewarding careers that earning a law degree allows.”


The 6-year Bachelors/JD Program is expected to begin the fall of 2014. 

(jbl).

July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Michael Simkovic Versus his Critics

There has a large number of posts over the last couple of weeks, including on this blog, concerning the Economic Value of a Law Degree by Michael Simkovic and Frank McIntyre.  In this study, the authors "estimate the mean pre-tax lifetime value of a law degree as approximately $1,000,000."  While many authors have praised this article, there have been a number of critics.

This week, Michael Simkovic is discussing his article on Brian Leiter's Law School Reports.  In particular, he is responding to critics of his study, such as Brian Tamanaha, Elie Mystal, and Joe Patrice.  At this point, I think Simkovic is winning the argument.  I think that the reason for this is that he and his co-author did such a thorough study and seem to have anticpated criticisms in the original article.  In addition, I agree with Brian Leiter that some of the criticisms "that have been put into circulation by people who most likely did not read the paper, or, if they did, plainly didn't understand it."

This article is changing the debate on the value of a law degree.  However, law schools cannot just sit back and think that everything is now okay.  Law schools still have much to do to improve legal education and make it more valuable for law students.

(Scott Fruehwald)

P.S. The ABA Journal also has an article concerning the debate on Simkovic's article.  (here)

July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

McGeorge Downsizes Staff and Student Body

From JD Journal:

According
to a statement from the dean of the University, Francis J. Mootz III, “”In
response to the unprecedented drop in applications to law schools across the
country, McGeorge School of Law is reducing the size of its student body. The
law school has reorganized the staff in Sacramento to align with its new size.
The school first offered a voluntary severance plan to all staff members. This
week it was necessary to lay off several staff members. McGeorge is going to be
a smaller law school, but it will continue its proud tradition over 90 years of
educating excellent attorneys.”

(ljs)

July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The New Republic asks six experts how they would fix law school

The August issue of The New Republic magazine features a cover story on the supposed "end of BigLaw"  and the "looming economic collapse of the legal profession."  Also inside is this feature in which the magazine asked six experts, including prominent law profs, writers and practitioners, how they would "fix" law school.  Professor Alan Dershowitz says he'd make law school two years instead of three. The third year would be devoted to supervised practical training via externships or clinics (those interested in a career in legal academia - mostly top students at elite schools - Dershowitz says they would spend the third year doing scholarly research and writing).  Others suggest everything from turning off the spigot of federal educational loan money that encourages too many to attend to a "cooling off" period between college and law school so that students don't apply as a way to extend college while figuring out what they want to do with their lives. 

The best idea in terms of helping to make students more "practice-ready" comes from Mark Chandler, the General Counsel at Cisco Systems, who is developing a program with U. Colorado that will allow students to work at Cisco as paid interns during the school year while earning academic credit via an independent study program supervised by faculty members.  The article is thin on details so I'm not sure how this proposal will differ from the supervised externships that many schools already offer but perhaps the standout feature is Mr. Chandler's take-charge attitude that the private bar has to step up to assist in the practical training of law students if it wants law schools to graduate students who are more "practice-ready." 

The crisis in legal education is often blamed on corporate clients like me: Under pressure to lower costs each year, we refuse to fund law firms’ training budgets by paying for young associates to do work that can be accomplished by technology or by non-lawyers working remotely. Worse, we are increasingly unwilling to pay on the basis of billable hours, which reward firms based on how slowly and inefficiently work gets done, rather than how quickly and efficiently. This pushes law firms to make their operations more efficient, reducing the prospects to employ and train young lawyers who emerge from school with few practical skills. With current students saddled with huge debt and facing limited job prospects, prospective applicants are turning elsewhere, and schools are reducing class sizes and faculties.

But companies like mine, and law firms as well, can also be part of the solution. We’ve proposed the following, and Colorado University Law School's visionary dean Philip J. Weiser is working to implement this program next year: Students will work as interns at Cisco for seven months–from June of the second year of law school until the following January, and potentially part-time during the following spring. We will pay them as we do our customary interns, and the students will not be required to pay tuition to the law school for the fall semester. The students will be supervised by a faculty member during the fall through an intensive credit-earning independent study project, and the students will also take extra courses during the rest of law school to ensure sufficient ABA-approved credits to graduate.

Read the rest of Mr. Chandler's remarks here as well as those of the other five panelists.

Hat tip to Stephanie West-Allen.

(jbl).

July 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)