Wednesday, April 30, 2014
"Reading" the Classroom: Encouraging Students to Perform Assigned Reading by Tonya Kowalski.
"You know that feeling—you're excited about the topic, you've prepared a good opening discussion, and you even have a few active learning ideas to keep your class engaged. But the students' responses make it clear that many have not done the reading, or have not really engaged the material while reading. This post suggests a few basic strategies to triage and address the problem. The bottom line is that classes designed around active learning—both before, during, and after the classroom meeting—are most likely to create a culture of reading among students."
You can read the rest of the article here.
P.S. The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning website has an Idea of the Month page, which contains numerous helpful articles like the above.
Hot alternative legal careers according to the New York State Bar Association’s Lawyers in Transition Committee
During a recent panel discussion sponsored by New York State Bar Association's Committee on Lawyers in Transition, the topic of "hot" alternative careers for lawyers was addressed. You can watch a video of the full two hour panel discussion here, or as an alternative, the National Jurist Magazine has a good summary of the panel's suggestions here. Among the recommendations, the panel talked about pursuing job opportunities in the following fields:
- Government Relations
- Appellate Services
Not to throw a wet blanket on the NYSBA's recommendations but the legal academic job market isn't exactly thriving right now. In fact, many law school faculties have shrunk over the past few years with buy-outs and lay-offs becoming more commonplace. That means the competition for the small number of openings that do exist is more ferocious than ever. But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
From the news release (excerpts):
-- Carrol and R. Rex Parris have announced the creation of the Parris Professionalism Institute, dedicated to the professional development of first-year law students at Pepperdine University School of Law.
The institute was established by a million-dollar gift to the School of Law. First-year law students from the Class of 2017 will be the first to experience the new program, beginning with a redesigned orientation process this fall.
The Parris Professionalism Institute will have three major components:
1. First-years will begin their law school careers with a one-week
Introduction to Professionalism Course that will focus on the
fundamentals of legal reading, reasoning, writing, and ethics. Sessions
will include assessment of writing ability and direct pedagogical
experiences with professors. A one-day capstone session will follow one
2. The Professional Formation Series for 1Ls will be a series of four highly
interactive and engaging events throughout the year that complement the
professionalism course, connect students with mentors, and encourage
professional behavior. The sessions will cover topics such as
professional health, professional materials, interviewing, and
networking. During this phase, students will work closely with their
Preceptors, practicing attorney mentors.
3. At the end of the school year, the Pepperdine Awards Program will
celebrate the accomplishments of students who best exhibit
professionalism. Outstanding students will receive "Parris Awards" in
recognition of their contributions to professional formation in the law
school community, and the "Pepperdine Award" will be given to the 3L who
best embodies the values of the Pepperdine University School of Law.
You can read more here
Paul Lippe has an excellent article in the ABA Journal, Law school leaders are dividing into two camps: stuck v. serious. He argues that "As law schools continue to struggle with an extraordinary decline in applications, their leaders—deans—seem to be dividing themselves into two camps: the stuck and the serious." He then notes the "inconvenient truths" for the stucks, such as "only 57 percent of the class of 2013 have real law jobs," "LSAT test-taking last fall hit its lowest point since 1998," "the financial underpinning of law schools has been full-freight, unqualified federal student loans, which are in rapid decline," and "even recently graduated lawyers who have the highest-paying, 'elite' jobs are quite dissatisfied with the hierarchical, pre-modern work styles that characterize most large firms." He concludes that "This is not a P.R. problem, as the stuck would suggest; it is a reality problem—lawyers have not kept pace with modern demands to improve value, and dynamic young people see more attractive career opportunities in other fields." However, "fortunately for all of us, the serious camp is now ascendant, the intrinsic value of the rule of law is enormously high, and most deans are grappling with reality, trying to preserve the best of law school while enabling appropriate change."
He then discusses the Future of Law School Innovation conference held at Colorado Law last week. "The heart of the conference was two presentations by George Kembel, the head of the Institute of Design at Stanford. . . Kembel describes a six-step approach to 'design-centric thinking' for complex problem-solving: empathy, problem definition, ideation, prototype, test, iterate." "[T]o really problem-solve, you have to think deeply about the problem and then consider changing the mix of how you solve it. 'You have to decide which constraints are fixed, and which you can change.”
Kembel "disagreed with the moderator’s emphasis on 'how law schools should prepare students to get jobs' by saying: 'We think schools should prepare students to create their own jobs. . .'" Lippe added that "The good news is that lots of people throughout law have already implicitly been applying design-centered thinking, especially corporate legal departments and others who wrestle with problems of scale and complexity." Lippe then mentions other "design compliant" initiatives discussed at the conference. He then notes, "Although she wasn’t at the conference, probably the single most 'design-centric' move in law in the last decade was Harvard Dean Martha Minow’s putting Jonathan Zittrain in charge of Harvard’s library. . . . 'If you connect law’s biggest library with its best technologist, something design-ish is bound to happen.'"
He ends, "Law is enormously valuable for all aspects of society, but we have to come to the grips with the reality that some 'better-designed' styles of practice are much more effective than others. If law schools use more client-and-lawyer empathy and a little less judge-and-academic empathy to start assessing those better practice styles, they can readily produce 21st-century lawyers and sustainable law schools. Seriously getting this right is a lot easier than stuckedly defending a status quo that isn’t working."
As we have stated here many times, those law schools that don't innovate will suffer or even go out of business. The leaders of this generation of legal educators will be the innovators, not those who desperately cling to the past.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
It has several articles of interest to law students who are looking for, and hoping to keep, their first legal job (subscription required).
There are some interview questions that everyone struggles with and this article examines five of the most feared. This article gives tips and an analytical framework for honestly answering these questions and looks at why employers ask them.
Job interviews require a lot of preparation. One part of that prep that requires both time and money is attire. This article gives insights and tips on how to develop a professional wardrobe on a law student budget.
I wish I had known how important the bar association is to career success.
The law is ever expanding and so does the amount of researchable case law, statutes, regulations, and treatises. How to sift through that ever-growing mountain of information is this article’s focus.
Three short pieces on opening a solo practice, managing time for better exam performance, and improving grades through self-assessment.
As a legal writing prof, I've purposely left out the link to the cover story on advice for griping about your grade.
The March issue of the “Minnesota Bench and Bar” offers a nontechnical article describing ways that malicious entities can mess up your computer and steps you can take to deal with these intruders. Many articles on computers are too technical for readers who are not well-versed. But this article is easy to understand and one that you can pass on to your students and lawyer friends. The article’s conclusion spells out the importance of protecting professional data:
Important documents no longer exist in a safe vacuum, thanks to the Internet. As online citizens, lawyers have heightened ethical obligations to consider how best to protect their own and their clients’ data. Following the basic security practices outlined above, you can protect yourself at the office and at home. Always keep your software updated, your passwords strong, and your online habits safe. But know your limits and recognize when you need professional help. As any lawyer will agree, continuing education is essential to staying effective in an ever-changing field. Computers have added a new dimension to the practice that should be carefully considered.
You can read the article here.
Monday, April 28, 2014
The New York Times has started a great new video series of "Op-Docs" in which it uses actors to recreate, verbatim, dialogue from actual legal transcripts into "dramatic, and often comedic performances." The series kicks off with a reenactment of a deposition taken in connection with a lawsuit brought against the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office in Ohio that challenged its policy of charging the public $2.00 per page for photocopies. The legal issue at stake is reminiscent of a case most 1L students used to read in their contracts course - Frigaliment Importing Company, 190 F. Supp 116 (S.D. N.Y. 1960) - in which Judge Friendly famously begins with the question: "What is chicken?" In the Cuyahoga County case, the plaintiff's lawyer goes 15 rounds with a state employee over the issue of "what is a photocopy machine?" Click here to watch the actors involved give a tour de force reenactment of this scintillating legal debate. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll shake your head in disbelief. Kids, are you sure you want to go into serious debt to do this kind of stuff?
By the way, the New York Times is asking readers to suggest other funny, weird, bizarre or baffling legal transcripts it can turn into future Op-Docs. If you've got a suggestion, email it to the NYT at firstname.lastname@example.org and include “Verbatim” in the subject line.
The Texas Bar Blog has begun offering first person stories of lawyers who have dealt with substance abuse and emotional issues. Here is the story of one lawyer who learned to cope with depression.
I suspect that we all know lawyers, including former students, who have faced these problems. We need to raise these issues with our current students and let them know that many bars have programs to help out. Here is the ABA’s Directory of Lawyer Assistance Programs.
I have been thinking a lot about professional identity lately, and I've concluded that all law schools need to teach professional identity, including at least one class devoted specifically to the subject. A few law schools (St. Thomas, Mercer, IU) already do so, but the vast majority don't.
While all law schools have ethics classes, these are narrower than what should be learned in a professional identity class. Legal ethics classes mainly teach the rules, and they present a faulty picture of the lawyer's role, which also should also include a lawyer's ideals and personal morality, as well as the norms and practices of the legal field. As two authors have stated, "[T]eaching to the profession’s code perpetuates the notion that conduct not prohibited by the rules is ethically permissible. Thus, rather than promoting professional ideals to which one aspires, the rules serve as the prevailing ethical norms, rather than the minimum standards that keep you out of trouble." (Muriel J. Bebeau & Verna E. Monson, Guided by Theory, Grounded in Evidence: A Way Forward for Professional Ethics Education, in Handbook of Moral and Character Education 562 (Larry P. Nucci & Darcia Narvaez eds, 2008). In other words, "the only difference between a lawyer told to be professional who acts in this way, and one who acts this way because of her professional identity, is that the lawyer herself believe that these are the ways she should act." (Benjamin V. Madison III, The Emperor has No Clothes but Does Anyone Really Care? How Law Schools are Failing to Develop Students’ Professional Identities and Practical Reasoning, (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2414015, at *27-30 (2014)).
Dean Daisy Floyd has written an excellent introduction to professional identity, Daisy Hurst Floyd, Practical Wisdom: Reimagining Legal Education, 10 U. St. Thomas L.J. 195, 196 (2013) (here). Everyone who is on a curriculum committee needs to read it."
Sunday, April 27, 2014
Embedding a "for-profit law practice model" into the law school curriculum to make students more practice ready
The is a new article suggesting an alternative to the law school incubator model as a way to make students more practice ready. It's entitled Stop Thinking And Start Doing: Three-Year Accelerator-to-Practice Program As A Market-Based Solution For Legal Education and is authored by Professors Jeffrey Pokorak, Ilene Seidman and Dean Gerald M. Slater (all of Suffolk). It is available at 43 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 59 (2013). From the introduction:
Law school applications are the lowest they've been in thirty years. Law school enrollment is down significantly from last year, and analysts see the trend continuing for the 2014-2015 academic year. The lack of current job opportunities and the potential for massive student loan payments has scared away prospective students from entering the legal profession. Commentators continue to suggest that obtaining a legal education might no longer be worth the investment. This Essay disagrees. Too many people suffer unnecessary harms due to a lack of affordable legal services. Continued progress in achieving necessary access to legal assistance relies on a constant influx of new, talented, and energetic lawyers. Providing the best training possible to each new generation of lawyers is essential for the continued development of individual liberties and the equitable treatment of all in our society.Many thinkers throughout legal academia are responding to these concerns by carefully considering what steps will actually help students, institutions, and the overall system of justice. Too many respond to current concerns about legal education with what we believe is the primary fallacy of legal educators today: namely, that the mission of law schools is to prepare students to think like lawyers. This Essay argues that the central function of law school is to prepare students to be lawyers, and to do what lawyers do. Although these two aims might seem similar, they are actually representative of the wide gulf between two distinct concepts: that of law school as a liberal arts education in law and that of law school as a professional education for lawyers. These goals are not mutually exclusive, but the former concept has dominated legal study development. Decisions regarding curriculum, faculty appointments, standards for promotion and tenure, and pay incentives have solidified legal academia's preference for the theoretical over the experiential approach to learning.. . . .One lauded response to the crisis in legal education has been the development of law school incubator programs designed to offer students a post-graduate experience in the actual practice of law under the supervision of law school employees. In our view, this development is both flawed and ironic. Recent graduates are already deeply in debt after three years of legal education, and incubator programs potentially add another year of delay before actual practice. At the same time, the creation of incubators acknowledges the failure of law schools to meet their implied promise as educators to train students to be capable lawyers upon graduation, during the period they are paying law schools to do so. Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law, the influential study produced by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (the “Carnegie Report”) on legal education, presented legal educators *63 with the opportunity to rethink what it means to “think like a lawyer.” The purpose of this Essay is to move that conversation forward.
We intend to introduce a new model of legal education that accelerates a student's progression from novice to able practitioner within the three years the student attends law school. To do so, we propose expanding the traditional law school curriculum to include required instruction in twenty-first century business competencies beginning in the first year, as well as imbedding a for-profit law practice model within the law school as part of an expanded experiential program. Initially, the program would be comprised of twenty students who apply directly. The purpose of the program would be to prepare these students to join or start sustainable small practices serving average-income individuals and families. We expect and intend that this model would expand to other practice areas and settings. For example, we envision an accelerator to corporate practice that would include successive training at large multi-practice firms and their client corporations, and another for legal technology that would include successive training at a wide range of emerging legal providers utilizing technology to streamline the delivery of legal services. We believe the accelerator model will ultimately serve as a basis for the redesign of modern legal education.
“I really don’t like this categorization of schools as first, second, and third-tier.…The U.S. News and World Report rankings of law schools are an abomination. The legal profession and the country would be better off if they were eliminated.…Law schools put too much emphasis on this one multiple choice test. What in life is a multiple choice test? But those rankings are very heavily influenced by LSAT scores."
This comes from Justice Alito’s wide ranging interview with The American Spectator. You can access it here.
Whenever I make a reference to a historical event or literary piece, or an old movie or song, I take the time to explain it. Otherwise, I fear the students will not understand me. Here is confirmation from Clark DeLeon who writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer and also teaches.
This week I gave my freshmen a noncredit quiz to establish some sort of a historical baseline. I provided 20 famous quotations - such as "Give me liberty, or give me death" and "A date which will live in infamy" - and asked them to identify the speaker and the historic context.
The average score was 3 - out of 20. Six students scored lower than 3. The high score was 10. "Let them eat cake" was recognized by only one student. None of them had heard the words, "Give us Barabbas!" Only one recognized "Tramps like us, baby we were born to run" as a song lyric.
(Thnx to JimMaule)
THE LEGAL WRITING INSTITUTE WRITERS WORKSHOP
We are pleased to announce the eleventh Legal Writing Institute Writers Workshop to take place on June 26-June 29, 2014. The workshop will give up to twelve Legal Writing faculty the opportunity to spend time working on their academic writing projects and improving their scholarly skills.
The Workshop will take place at the Villanova Conference Center in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It will take place immediately before the Legal Writing Institute biennial conference in Philadelphia. The Workshop concludes on Sunday morning, June 29, and the LWI conference begins that afternoon. Here is the website for the Villanova Conference Center: http://www.acc-villanovaconferencecenter.com/
Who is Eligible to Attend?
All members of the Legal Writing Institute are eligible. You must have a scholarly writing project well underway and beyond the initial stages of performing the initial research and drafting a tentative outline. You must at least have some sort of partial draft. To be clear, we expect you to arrive with a substantial work product. In most cases, a scholarly writing project should result in a law review article.
We give priority to full time Legal Writing faculty for whom scholarly writing is a prerequisite for retention, promotion, or tenure. We give priority to applicants who have not attended past Workshops.
What Will We Do at the Workshop?
Participants make presentations on their projects to small groups of three and receive feedback. Each session runs about ninety minutes. They also take part in several guided discussion groups, each on a different topic. Participants will also have time to work on their drafts.
Will There Be Facilitators?
Yes, experienced scholarly writers. To be announced.
Where Will the Workshop Be?
The workshop will take place at the Villanova Conference Center in Villanova, Pennsylvania, a fabulous location. http://www.acc-villanovaconferencecenter.com/ Villanova University owns the conference center, and Aramark runs its operations. It is down the road from the university.
This year, participants will pay a $350 registration. LWI will cover housing, all meals, beginning with dinner on June 26 and ending with breakfast on June 29 (day time snacks included), and ground transportation from the Philadelphia International Airport and to the Marriott in Philadelphia.
If I Have Questions, Whom Should I Ask?
Please contact Lou Sirico at (610) 519 7071 Sirico@law.villanova.edu.
How Do I Apply?
Please fill out the following application and submit it by email by noon, Friday, May 2. Sirico@law.villanova.edu We will select participants as quickly as we can and on a rolling basis.
LEGAL WRITING INSTITUTEWRITERS WORKSHOP APPLICATION FORM
Please return this application by email to Lou Sirico: Sirico@law.villanova.edu
Law School Affiliation:
Are You a Full Time Faculty Member?
For How Many Years Have You Been Teaching Legal Writing?
Is Scholarship a Requirement for Your Retention, Promotion, or Tenure? Please Explain Your Individual Situation.
Please describe your writing project and, in as much detail as possible. Please describe how far along you are in completing your project. For example, do you have a detailed outline, a first draft, substantial parts of a first draft? Please estimate how far along you will be by mid June 2014.
Is there anything else you want to tell us?
Saturday, April 26, 2014
The blog Lawyerist has a post here in which Professor Lisa Needham (William Mitchell) has compiled what she feels are the best and worst examples of cross-examination from the movies and TV. The first three video clips in her post are the "good" examples followed by four "bad" ones. Perhaps some of our readers can make use of these in class. And please feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments below.
For my money, I've always thought the courtroom scene in "The Verdict" involving the questioning of nurse Costello was a great one. Paul Newman's minimalist approach to her direct examination which sets up James Mason's big mistake on cross when he asks Costello a question for which he didn't already know the answer and blows the case as a result. Until that moment, James Mason was master of courtroom examination with his understated approach to questioning the witnesses which was a nice (and more realistic) counterpoint to the usual onscreen courtroom histrionics. But if you're really looking for a (non-movie) video clip of great cross-examination to show your students, then look no further than the master himself, Irving Younger.
Recently, Justices Scalia and Ginsburg appeared together at the National Press Club and fielded questions posed by noted journalist Marvin Kalb. You can read excerpts here, compliments of the Wall Street Journal. Here is the most interesting excerpt (April 18):
Marvin Kalb: Are you two ever going to agree on big issues and still maintain the friendship?
Justice Scalia: We agree on a whole lot of stuff. Ruth is really bad only on the knee-jerk stuff. (Big laughs from the audience.) She is a really good textualist. In those things, where the text is what she’s guided by, she’s terrific. She’s obviously very smart. Most cases, I think, we’re together. I think we are together in a lot of criminal defense cases, upholding the rights of the criminal defendant. Ruth and I are quite frequently in dissent from the court’s decision. So we agree on a whole lot. You have it wrong.
Friday, April 25, 2014
My co-blogger Scott Fruehwald has published a new article in the recently launched Texas A&M Law Review, at 1 Tex. A&M L. Rev. 83 (2013), called How To Help Students From Disadvantaged Backgrounds Succeed In Law School. It is also available here on SSRN. From the abstract:
Over the past 50 years, law schools have seen an amazing increase in the diversity of its students. Minorities, women, and the foreign born now make up a significant percentage of those attending law school. However, law school education has changed little in reaction to the new kind of students it must educate. Law schools continue to use the casebook/Socratic method with some modifications at the edges for legal writing and clinics. While law schools have added minority offices, remedial classes, bar review courses, and academic support personnel, these efforts have not helped to the extent hoped.
Many in legal education view the failure of a significant number of students as inevitable. However, this author believes that students from disadvantaged backgrounds can succeed in law school and become successful lawyers if law schools adopt new methods of instructing such students. In other words, the problem lies not in the lack of innate ability of our students, but how law schools deliver instruction to their students.
First, law schools must change the mindsets of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many students at all levels believe that intelligence is fixed. Such a mindset prevents learning because it creates a defeatist attitude. Law schools need to instill a growth mindset in their students – that with effort and the proper approach any student that is qualified to enter law school can succeed in law school.
Second, law schools should help motivate their students. Many students come to law school lacking the motivation to learn. Third, law schools must teach their students how to be metacognitive thinkers. Metacognition concerns thinking about thinking – controlling one’s cognitive processes. Fourth, law schools must help students from disadvantaged groups become self-regulated learners. Self-regulated learners are engaged learners, and they are fascinated by learning new things. Finally, law schools need to help students develop better study habits.
From Fox News (excerpts):
Prescription ADHD medications like Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse are becoming increasingly popular for overworked and overscheduled college students — who haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD.
“Our biggest concern … is the increase we have observed in this behavior over the past decade,” says Sean McCabe, research associate professor at the University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center.
Full-time college students were twice as likely to have used Adderall non-medically as their counterparts who were not full-time students, according to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health report released in 2009.
“When we look at upperclassmen, the number really begins to jump,” says Alan DeSantis, professor of communications at the University of Kentucky who has conducted research on stimulant use in college. “The more time you stay on campus, the more likely you are to use.”
ADHD stimulants “strengthen the brain’s brakes, its inhibitory capacities, so it can control its power more effectively,” said Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist and ADHD expert. “They do this by increasing the amount of certain neurotransmitters, like dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.”
You can read more here.
I’m sure this drug use continues and probably increases in law school. Even in my law school days, I knew students who were getting through papers and exams with the help of drugs.
Beyond Elitism: Legal Education for the Public Good by George Critchlow.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
A professor of anthropology at Boise State conducted a study to find out how professors spend their day and the average number of hours they work each week. His study sample consisted of only 30 (out of 550 Boise State faculty solicited) so Professor Ziker does not claim that the results can be generalized beyond these particular findings though my hunch is that data he collected reflects a reasonable estimate of the average academic's workload; some work much longer hours while others work fewer hours (Professor Ziker plans a follow up study which presumably will involve a larger sample size). In the meantime, here are some of his key findings from this small sample study:
- On average, faculty who participated in the study worked 61 hours per week.
- They worked just over 10 hours a day and 10 hours on the weekend.
- Work was heaviest Mondays through Thursday with the workload trailing off on Friday.
- Faculty who participated in the study spent an average of 17% of their workweek in meetings.
- Faculty spent 13% of their day dealing with email.
- 12% of their time was spent in the classroom teaching with an equal amout of time spent preparing for class.
- 11% of their day was spent on course administration (grading, updating course web pages, etc.).
- Only 3% of the workweek was spent on primary research and 2% on manuscript writing.
On the weekends, the faculty members who participated in the study spent 23% of their time on class preparation, 13% on course administration, 10% of their time on email, 9% of their time at workshops/conferences, 8% of their time in professional conversations, 7% of their time on professional travel, 4% of their time on manuscript writing, and 4% of their time on what the study categorized as "housekeeping" which included cleaning up files, straightening offices and labs and updating computers, among a myriad of other activities.
Professor Ziker summed up by noting:
Combining workweek and weekend, our faculty subjects spent approximately 40 percent of their time on teaching-related activities, or about 24.5 hours. Interestingly, 24.5 hours per week is almost exactly 60 percent of a 40-hour workweek. So, what is happening? Are faculty shirking their teaching duties, or is workload policy geared for a time and place when success was defined largely by teaching? Research, it seems has to fit in outside normal working hours for our academicans. Only 17 percent of the workweek was focused on research and 27 percent of weekend time.
Brown Rudnick has rescinded 10 of 23 job offers to students just before their graduation. Its press release states in part:
Most of these associates were extended offers to work in our NY and Boston offices and we are not in a position to assimilate such a high number and provide associates with the work opportunities and training that will enable them to develop.
What PR expert wrote that and how persuasive did he or she think the message would be? You can read the rest here. (Thnx to Above the Law)
Those students now are scrambling for jobs and making late decisions about which bar exam to take. I know one of the students. Although the firm’s press release promises help for these students, in our case, most of the help is coming from our law school.
Some commentators fear that other firms will follow this firm’s example.