Saturday, August 31, 2013
New scholarship on contemporary professionalism training in law schools from Professors Alison Kehner (Penn.) and Mary Ann Robinson (Villanova) entitled Mission: Impossible, Mission: Accomplished or Mission: Underway? A Survey and Analysis of Current Trends in Professionalism Education in American Law Schools and available at 38 U. Dayton L. Rev. 57 (2012) and here on SSRN. From the abstract:
This Article identifies common characteristics of effective professionalism instruction to provide guidance in how to design innovative professionalism instruction. After introducing the topic in Part I, Part II of this Article describes the origins and development of the professionalism education movement in American Law schools. Part III of this Article explains our methods for collecting information and identifies and summarizes the predominant trends, and provides examples of noteworthy programs or initiatives. Part IV concludes by describing our method for assessing successful programs and identifying the characteristics of effective professionalism instruction.
These come from Marie Buckley’s Blog:
Use plain English.
We’ve all heard the common admonition to “use plain English.” Our clients speak a modern language and we should too. So if you would not use a word or phrase when speaking with a colleague, don’t use it in your writing. Speak human.
Lead from the top.
The principle of leading from the top is the single most effective tool for strong writing and the essential rule for structuring any paper. If you open your paper by telling your reader what is
important, they will look for that information as they read. When you present that information later, the reader will seize on it and it will click quickly, like a puzzle piece snapping into a space that you have already prepared for it.
And the principle of leading from the top is like a fractal because it applies on large and small scales. Lead a paper with your conclusion. Lead a section with a substantive heading. Lead a
paragraph with a summary sentence. Lead an email with a strong subject line. Lead the message itself with a summary sentence. Leading from the top is the key to tight, logical writing and the focus of my book.
Tell your reader what to do next.
Sane people don’t read briefs, contracts and business letters for pleasure. They read them because they are being paid to read them or because they have a problem and need to read them. What do they want? They want to know what to do next and your job is to tell them. What is the client’s problem and what should be their next steps? What are you asking the court to do? What do you want your reader to do after reading your e-mail or your letter? Use your writing to make things
happen in the real world.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Several 3Ls believe it is according to this story from the Business Insider. They'd rather use the third year to learn practical legal skills than take electives like "law and literature" or "lawyering and biography."
. . . .
A recent graduate of the University of Missouri law school, Rita Flórez says a third year of classes is "like watching paint dry" after two years of course work. "You get to 3L and you're just like, why I am here?" she said. "I had a lot of classmates who skipped frequently."
During the first two years, law students take meaty courses like CivPro (the rules lawyers have to follow during civil lawsuits), contracts, and legal ethics.
By the time she got to the third year, Flórez says, she wanted to continue developing her legal skills instead of taking electives, like law and literature and lawyering and biography that third year. Many of the students in her cohort developed senioritis, she says.
. . . .
But many professors defend electives on the grounds that that is the coursework where students hone the analytical skills that will make them better lawyers in practice. Students will have plenty of time after they graduate to learn the perfunctory aspects of law practice like how many pages the brief is supposed to be and where to file a motion.
While doing some research, I came across this article concerning Ed Mezvinsky, a
former member of Congress who suffered a criminal conviction for his
involvement in a Nigerian email scam. He also is the father-in-law of Chelsea
Clinton. Here is the narrative that the federal prosecutor used:
"He was always looking for the home run. He was always trying to find the business
deal that would make him as wealthy as all the people in his social
circle," said federal prosecutor Bob Zauzmer.
You can read more here.
The families had the grace to invite Ed to the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding.
I also like his description of the problem solving method: "The problem solving case method focuses on the case at the very beginning—before the facts are all known, before the parties’ goals are clarified, before the legal issues have been narrowed, before the dispute has crystallized or run its course. This problem solving case method asks students to consider who the client is and what their goals are or might be, what the facts are and what facts the lawyer needs to find out, what various legal rules affect the client’s ability to achieve the client’s goals, and what options might be available to help the client achieve her goals ethically and within the bounds of the law."
Thursday, August 29, 2013
More on the Reinvent Law program at Michigan State that teaches the technology skills of future law practice
The ABA Journal Legal Rebels column has an updated discussion of a story we had previously blogged here about the Michigan State program called the Reinvent Law Laboratory that aims to teach students how to meld technology and the law in order to deliver the legal services of the future. Below is an excerpt of the ABA Journal profile followed by a short video interview with Professor Dan Katz who, along with his colleague Professor Renee Newman Knake, are the brains behind Reinvent Law.
. . . .
"The part [of the legal profession] that is actually growing–the Clearspires, the Axioms, legal process outsourcers and software companies–they need people with particular sets of skills who have domain expertise and can build software that works to solve legal problems," says Katz, an associate law professor with a tech and public policy background–an unusual combination in legal academia. "They need lawyers who know the law, understand software and technology, and [know] how to mesh the two."
. . . .
[T]he ReInvent Law module includes a core curriculum of classes designed to teach students and practicing lawyers "hard skills" such as quantitative legal prediction (including technology that predicts whether a client has a case, the odds of winning it and which arguments should be used in support). The program also promotes the research and development of legal service models that are affordable, accessible and widely adopted through startup competitions and free daylong seminars designed to spark ideas and conversation among leading entrepreneurs and legal innovators. That crowd includes Katz's students, who are gaining the attention of legal employers–and getting hired.
From Law Technology News:
Having a broken cell phone is bad enough. Discovering your
phone is toast just as you're about to attend an important meeting, leave on an
urgent trip or call a client or colleague with critical information can be
anything from bothersome to disastrous.
Since most law schools still fail to offer courses in portable electronics repair and maintenance, and because many lawyers continue to believe Ohm's Law is some type of real estate statute, it can be very useful to know what to do when a phone stops working.
Fortunately, one rarely needs any technical expertise to get a cell phone back onto its digital feet. Here's a quick rundown on how to respond to six common dead phone situations.
The article goes on to address these problems: dark & lifeless; call fails; lost phone; waterlogged phone; hot phone.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
A big hat tip to ATL for this one. The advice excerpted below reflects responses by several Ms. JD board members, on behalf of the National Women Law Students' Organization, to the question "what we wish we'd known before we started law school."
1. The Socratic Method will not kill you. "It sounds a little dramatic, I know, but I spent the first semester absolutely terrified of hearing my name called by the Professors. Turns out, it's not so bad. You might be embarrassed at some point, but it's not the end of the world and nobody will remember. Law school gets so much better when you make peace with the Socratic Method."
2. Law school is an opportunity to build professional relationships. "I wish I'd understood the power of the relationships I would build in law school. I came into law school prepared to work hard, but I didn't realize how many opportunities would arise out of conversations I had and relationships I built, both at my law school and outside of it."
. . . .
3. Each semester focus your energies on one course. "Every semester pick one class in particular where you focus your energies. Rather than spreading your efforts equally throughout all your classes (a scenario where it just won't be possible for you to do your best in any single class), pick one where you go to office hours, pursue a mentorship relationship with your professor, and actively participate in class."
. . . .
4. Be sure to take practical courses. "I wish I would have known that I should think about taking classes that might be of practical value to me after law school! Although I thought I'd become a litigator and took multiple trial advocacy classes, I wish I would have pushed myself to think of other practical ways I'd likely use my license to practice law. For example, I wish I would have known to take more corporate formation classes, because knowing how to start a company would be helpful given my entrepreneurial spirit."
Check out the remaining tips here.
From Leadership 360:
Antoinette Tuff's actions at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery
Learning Academy in Georgia were inarguably courageous. They were also inspired
by her faith and her own experience with loss and despair. Without either one,
she might not have reached that disturbed young man. Most agree, given his AK
47 and 500 rounds of ammunition, that she prevented what could have been
another Sandy Hook tragedy. For everyone at the Academy, she was certainly the
right person at the right moment. Her decision to engage was spontaneous and
remarkable; her actions were brave; her intuition and skill diffused a
potential tragedy. No lives were lost, though many may be changed. What she
succeeded at doing is nothing short of heroic. We want to highlight her source
for heroism because it holds a lesson.
She was calm and reassuring as she told him "It's going
to be alright sweetheart." Antoinette Tuff opened her heart to Michael
Brandon Hill, the 20 year old, heavily armed man with a mental health problem
who was off his medications. She did not know him. Her capacity to move to love
made all the difference.
The rest of this posting is worth reading.
It’s August 29, the feast day of the beheading of St. John the Baptist. J (In class, it always
gets a laugh of sorts.) From Christianity.com (excerpts):
Herod Antipas smiled and nodded with approval. His step-daughter
Salome* swayed and twirled in front of him and his birthday-party guests, her
graceful figure filling them with longing. Her performance done, Herod and the
guests applauded. What a dance! Inflamed by his senses and the mood of the
moment, Herod cried, "Ask me what you want--up to half my kingdom--and it
is yours!" And he swore a great oath to confirm his promise.
As a Tetrarch (ruler of one quarter of a Roman province) Herod was more
than able to provide a handsome gift even by first century standards.
Down in the dungeons of Herod's fortress (named Machaerus) a man's fate
was about to be decided. John the Baptizer was under lock and key in one of
those gloomy holds. The cause was this: he had rebuked Herod for stealing
another man's wife--Herodias. This woman had been married to Herod's quiet
half-brother, Phillip. Herodias was furious, and convinced Herod to arrest
John. Herod was only too willing; he was suspicious of the large crowds John
However, once Herod got John in his lockup, he talked with him and
found he liked the guy. He didn't understand what John was saying about
holiness and salvation, but it seemed to be something he
should hear. Salome approached Herod. Evidently she had made up her mind. The
guests and the king turned to hear what she would ask.
"Give me now the head of John the Baptizer on a platter!" said the girl.
Looking around at his guests, he saw only one thing. If he was to save
face, he must fulfill his promise. He ordered the execution. According to a
long-standing tradition, John was beheaded on this day, August
29, probably around the year A.D. 28.
Here’s the news release
CHARLESTON, S.C., Aug. 28, 2013 – The founders and directors of the Charleston School of
Law announced today that they have signed an agreement expressing their intent
to transfer ownership of the law school to The InfiLaw System (“InfiLaw”),
which would become effective if approved by the South Carolina Commission on
Higher Education (CHE) and the American Bar Association. Such approval is
expected to take months to complete.
“We made this decision because a majority of the founders had expressed a desire to pull
back and retire, Robert S. Carr and George C. Kosko said in a joint statement.
They are directors and founders of the Charleston School of Law. “As a result,
this transaction is part of a necessary succession plan that ensures that the
Charleston School of Law will be viable and thrive over the long term.”
They continued, “One of the key reasons we chose to move forward with InfiLaw is
because it is committed to maintaining the best of the Charleston School of
Law, including our culture and vision, while at the same time bringing its
strengths, including investment in the law school in terms of systems, programs
and infrastructure, as well as a demonstrated commitment to public service.”
“We want everyone to understand that until a transition to new ownership is complete,
the directors will continue to own and operate the law school,” Carr said.
Moving to clear up a public misperception, Carr stated that InfiLaw Management
Solutions, a subsidiary of InfiLaw, will provide consulting services, but “will
not make any operational decisions.”
In an announcement to students, faculty, staff and alumni, the directors also
indicated that they are willing to consider well thought-out and
financially-viable alternative offers. They further established a process by
which offers could be submitted to their lawyer, Edward Hughes at Nexsen
Pruett, LLC, 400 Main Street Office Campus, Suite 100A, Hilton Head Island, SC
29925-3526; (843) 689-6277; email@example.com,.
Carr pointed out that the decision to transfer ownership was not made in haste, but
had been in the planning stages for quite a while. However, due to the
complexity of such a transfer under any circumstances it took some time to find
a viable succession plan.
They also acknowledged the public speculation that law school should be sold to a private
or public institution. However, they pointed out that they have not been
approached by any public institution interested in buying the Charleston School
of Law and noted that private institutions that they contacted elected not to
engage in substantive discussions. They also acknowledged that they looked at
other options, such as becoming a non-profit institution and a sale to a
current owner, but pointed out that none of the options would have done as much
protect the interests of the law school for the foreseeable future as the
“As this process moves forward, we will continue to keep all interested parties informed of developments regarding this transaction,” Carr concluded.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
In 2007, the Carnegie Report identified three core competencies for law school graduates: (1) the cognitive apprenticeship; (2) the practical apprenticeship; and (3) the professional (ethical and social) apprenticeship. The Report noted that law schools did a good job with the first apprenticeship, but that they did a poor job with the other two. Professors Alison Kehner and Mary Ann Robinson have just posted an extremely valuable article on SSRN that deals with the third apprenticeship--professionalism.
The authors first discuss the history of teaching professionalism in law school. Then, based on an extensive survey, they demonstrate how various law schools are teaching professionalism to their students. There is a wealth of detail here that will be of enormous aid to those who are trying to integrate professionalism into law school and law teaching. In other words, there is now one source that discusses the myriad of ways to teaching professionalism. Finally, they distill the common traits of successful professionalism programs: 1) Institutional Commitment to Creating a Culture of Professionalism, 2) Involvement of Members of Bench and Bar as a Complement to Faculty Instruction, 3) Intentional Instruction in Professionalism, and 4) Incentives for Students.
The survey was commissioned by Inside Higher Ed and involved asking more than 2,200 professors for their opinions about the effectiveness of MOOCs and other online course offerings. Only 20% of those surveyed believe that online courses can deliver the same kind of learning experience as in-person classes with the majority believing that such offerings provide an inferior experience. Interestingly, the survey found that as faculty themselves gain more experience with online courses, their view of the quality and effectiveness also grows.
Among the key findings (registration req.):
• Few faculty members (7 percent) strongly agree that online courses can achieve student learning outcomes that are at least equivalent to those of in-person courses. Educational technology administrators are more likely (27 percent) to strongly agree with this statement.
• Most faculty members (85 percent) say the quality of online courses is lower than that of in-person courses with respect to the interaction with students during class, and 78 percent said the same about online courses’ ability to reach “at risk” students. Professors were evenly divided on online courses’ comparative effectiveness in delivering content to meet expected learning objectives.
• Asked to rate factors that contribute to quality in online education, whether an online program is offered by an accredited institution tops the list for faculty members (73 percent), and about 6 in 10 say that whether an online program is offered by an institution that also offers in-person instruction is a “very important” indicator of quality. Only 45 percent say it is very important that the online education is offered for credit, and about 3 in 10 say it is very important whether the offering institution is nonprofit.
• Technology administrators are far likelier to associate quality with academic credit, with 63 percent citing that as a “very important” indicator of quality in online education.
• 62 percent of faculty members strongly agree that institutions should start MOOCs only with faculty approval; nearly as many (59 percent) strongly agree that MOOCs should be evaluated by accrediting agencies.
• 5 percent of faculty say they have never taught a face-to-face course; 4 in 10 (39 percent) have taught a blended or hybrid course.
• Of faculty who have never taught an online course, 30 percent say the main reason they haven’t is because they’ve never been asked.
• Just 9 percent of technology officers strongly agree that their institution rewards teaching with technology in tenure and promotion decisions; 11 percent of faculty strongly agree.
Monday, August 26, 2013
We've heard from several law profs about what they think of Obama's proposal to make law school two years instead of three (here, here and here) so to counterbalance those perspectives, today's Wall Street Journal Law Blog asked a couple of law students who also happen to be student bar association presidents for their take. Not surprisingly, they also are divided about the idea.
Lila C. Milford, 25 years old, is a third-year law student at Santa Clara University School of Law in Santa Clara, Ca.
. . . .
“I do understand that the cost of law school is and can be prohibitively expensive for some,” said Ms. Milford, who is financing her education through loans. “But to shorten it would in some ways make it more of a technical degree.”
She said that law school is about more than learning the basics, and that for lawyers to fulfill their duty as officers of the court requires more comprehensive study of legal history and more. “Lawyers are responsible for engaging in public discourse,” Ms. Milford said. “You need to have a solid foundation… and I don’t think you get that in less than the three full years.”
. . . .
William Branham, a 3L at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Fla., thought President Obama is definitely on the right track. Given the option of two-year law school, “I would have completely done it,” he said.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
People are talking about students at Thailand’s Kasetsart University, who fashioned some homemade blinders:
The hats, which were made out of computer paper, have gone viral on the Internet after an image was posted on a university page on Facebook, where it received so many negative reactions that it was later removed.
However, students were in favor of the hats. They came up with the idea and made the hats themselves on the day of the test. Rawiporn Buasaeng, a third-year student, told the Bangkok Post, “It is quite normal that people try to cheat in an exam, so the hat helps avoid distractions while doing the test. I feel very bad, and angry, that this has been seen as bad by outsiders.”
Besides, it could have worse. According to a few dubiously sourced Internet photos, this is not the first time students have worn strange headgear to take a test.
Here is Professor Claire Potter’s Decalogue, followed by some advice by commentators:
Thou shalt not rack up unnecessary credit card debt.
Thou shalt not neglect thy dental or healthcare.
Thou shalt find an excellent thrift store.
Thou shalt not assume that merit systems are determinative.
Thou shalt have an excellent professional back-up plan.
Thou shalt become an excellent colleague.
Thou shalt join thy professional organization
Thou shalt not suck up to thy mentors nor have sexual congress with them, nor shalt thou, when a TA, cross the line thyself
Thou shalt not gossip and spread hurtful calumny, nor write vituperative email, nor bcc when
Thou shalt use the word discourse sparingly; likewise neoliberalism, and other theoretical
catchphrases designed to obscure that thou hast not fully thought through thine
Great advice! I would add, as a corollary to #1 and #2, Thou
shalt learn to cook. One reason my teeth survived grad school intact was that I
cooked most meals from scratch, with little sugar and lots of vegetable fiber,
and I didn't drink sugary beverages. It was also easier on my budget than
eating prepared foods, or eating out all the time.
During seminars, thou shalt not dominate discussions, interrupt,
scoff, roll eyes, sigh loudly, appropriate arguments about theoretical texts
from preface/introduction/secondary sources as one's own (guess what!? We've
all read those!). And please, thou shalt give up disgusting energy drink
habit of undergraduate days.
shalt not over-caffeinate yourself. "Casey Jones you better watch your
speed." Espresso, cappuccino, Red Bill or whatever your poison of choice, too much of a good thing is too much.
Thou shalt not lord it over thy less bookish fellows in the laboring classes (particularly those who can fix your broken mechanical devices).
You can read more here at the Chronicle of Higher Education
Sunday, August 25, 2013
The Theory Behind My Book, Think Like A Lawyer: Legal Reasoning for Law Students and Business Professionals
As I mentioned a few days ago, ABA Publishing has just issued my book, Think Like A Lawyer: Legal Reasoning for Law Students and Business Professionals. The book introduces law students and others to legal reasoning through text and exercises. In this post, I would like to explain the approach behind my book.
I based my book on the scholarship of general education scholars, in particular, Duane F. Shell et. al., The Unified Learning Model: How Motivational, Cognitive, and Neurobiological Sciences Inform Best Teaching Practices (Springer 2010) and Susan Ambrose et. al., How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching 100 (Jossey-Bass 2010). (Michael Hunter Schwartz’s articles and books on legal education were also important background for my book.)
Daniel Kahneman has asserted that the acquisition of expertise in any field requires the acquisition of many miniskills. (Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow 238 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2011)) Ambrose and her co-authors have argued that to be fluent in a skill, a student needs to break down the skill into its parts (miniskills) and practice those parts separately until the student is proficient in each step of the skill. The student will then recombine the parts and work on the skill as a whole. (Ambrose at 102)
In my book, I apply the Ambrose approach to law. I break down legal reasoning (thinking like a lawyer or legal problem solving) into its miniskills–legal reading and case analysis, rule-based reasoning (deductive reasoning), synthesis (inductive reasoning), analogical reasoning, distinguishing cases, and policy-based reasoning--with a chapter and exercises on each miniskill. I then combine these miniskills with chapters on how to write a small-scale paradigm (a simple analysis), statutory analysis, how to respond to opposing arguments, and advanced problem solving and critical thinking.
You can download the preface to my book here.
The Lansing State Journal recently published an article discussing how Cooley Law School is faring the nationwide decline in law school applications that has seen its own enrollment fall from more than 4,000 students in 2010 to a little more than 3,200 last fall (despite having opened a fifth campus in Tampa) with a further, "significant" drop expected this year as well. According to the article, Cooley has weathered the storm through a combination of financial planning in which it set aside funds in anticipation of such a downturn, declining to fill faculty vacancies and raising tuition this year by nine percent.
Toward the end of the article, there is mention of Cooley's "alliance" with a state university that may see it rebranded as Western Michigan University School of Law by year's end once the appropriate accrediting agencies have signed off. In connection with that, the article mentions work by Professor William Henderson in which he found that changing a stand-alone law school's name by associating with a larger university (e.g., Detroit College of Law, Dickinson School of Law, and Franklin Pierce) or by changing its existing university affiliation (U. Bridgeport to Quinnipiac and U. Puget Sound to Seattle U.) can dramatically increase the school's USNWR ranking due to the "halo" effect. Interesting stuff if you, like me, missed Professor Henderson's post the first time around. Though, as he warns, don't get your hopes up too much about your own school's ability to try jump a tier or two in the USNWR rankings by changing its name. "[T]his strategy is only open to a handful of independent law schools and those affiliated with a weak, financially struggling central universities."
Campus Pride represents the leading national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create a safer college environment for LGBT students.
The organization is a volunteer-driven network “for” and “by” student leaders.
The primary objective of Campus Pride is to develop necessary resources,
programs and services to support LGBT and ally students on college campuses
across the United States.
The Campus Pride Index is based in research on policy, program and practice and is
conducted “for and by” LGBT experts in the field of higher education.
Annually campuses update and use the Campus Pride benchmarking tool to improve
LGBT living and learning on campus. Over 80% of participating
colleges last year improved from their ratings using the index benchmarking
In order to be in the Top 25 this year, a college had to achieve 5 stars in
Overall, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression categories.
Each campus also had to be 4.5 stars or above in the eight LGBT-friendly
factor areas. The final Top 25 had the highest percentage ratings.
The final list reflects colleges with student populations from 2500 to
over 25,000, public and private schools alike (in alphabetical order).
Case Western Reserve University
Portland State University
Southern Oregon University
The Ohio State University
University of California, Riverside
University of California, Santa Cruz
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Maryland, College Park
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota – Duluth
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
University of Oregon
University of Pennsylvania
University of Southern California
University of Washington
Washington State University
You can read more here.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
NYC's Mayor and media mega-mogul Michael Bloomberg says that if you want to be successful, among other things you need to work hard - really hard, take shorter bathroom breaks and start eating lunch at your desk (though I'm not sure how the latter squares with the conventional wisdom that you should always be networking). The advice came during Bloomberg's weekly radio show.
More specifically, to be successful, Bloomberg says do the following (courtesy of Politicker):
1. Work Hard. Really Hard.
“I always tried to be the first one in in the morning and the last one to leave at night, take the fewest vacations and the least time away from the desk to go to the bathroom or have lunch. You gotta be there. I mean, everybody says, ‘Oh, that’s crazy!’ But if you want to succeed, … you can’t control how lucky you are, you can’t control how smart you are, but you can control how hard you work, so that’s the first thing.”
2. Take risks. Be persistent. Beware of social media.
“Take risks. If you’re scared to take risks, you’re just gonna fit in with the crowd and never break average, and probably won’t even make average."
3. Keep learning, seriously.
“Don’t ever stop learning."
“Lastly, give back. Be generous."
See the full text of his remarks here.