Tuesday, September 23, 2014
According to JD Journal:
The university is reducing the current tuition costs of the law school from $20,579 to $17,900 effective for the fall session of 2015. However, such heavy cuts are applicable only for in-state and Michigan students. For out-of-state students the cost cutting would be smaller, though significant as costs will drop nearly 8 percent, from $$33,752 to $31,074.
The law school has good reason to try to attract more students:
The drop in applications to the law school has been huge. While even three years ago, the number of applicants was 1,400, this year that number had dropped to 475.
You can read more here.
I hear that other schools adopting this strategy have had disappointing results. But every case, every location, is different. In any case, I wish Toledo well.
Monday, September 22, 2014
With the many changes occurring recently in legal education, scholars need to define the terms they are using because having a common language is vital. There is no more important term in legal education reform than "experiential legal education." This term is the basis of new requirements by the ABA and state bars, as well as the subject of numerous articles. David I.C. Thomson has just posted a new article on SSRN, Defining Experiential Legal Education.
As with many such periods of significant growth and change, however, some classification and a deeper understanding of the types and methods of experiential learning in law schools would be helpful. Definitions and methods for classification are important because they provide a foundation for understanding and clear communication. This article seeks to provide that definitional understanding, with the goal of speeding up this good work, not putting it in a box. It provides a definition of experiential learning for legal education, as well as a method for application of the definition to courses currently in the law school curriculum as well as those that might be considered for inclusion in the curriculum of the future.
Part I of the article provides a brief history of experiential learning in law, explores the major sources for a possible new definition of experiential learning, and describes the limitations of the definitional elements that we currently have. Part II argues that the definitions we currently have are not only limited, but their limitations are being exposed by the growth and variety in experiential learning opportunities currently being offered in many law schools. Part III offers a new definition for experiential learning in law, together with a series of questions that can be used in applying the definition. Finally, Part IV offers application of the new definition to examples of course work that are currently being offered in law schools around the country, so that the reader can see the definition at work."
"The term 'Experiential Learning' refers to methods of instruction that regularly or primarily place students in the role of attorneys, whether through simulations, clinics, or externships. Such forms of instruction integrate theory and practice by providing numerous opportunities for students to learn and apply lawyering skills as they are used in legal practice (or similar professional settings). These learning opportunities are also designed to encourage students to begin to form their professional identities as lawyers, through experience or role-playing with guided self-reflection, so that they can become skilled, ethical, and professional life-long learners of the law."
He then goes on to further define the term in order to avoid confusion with other methods of law school teaching. He next gives several examples of what is and what is not experiential education. You can find these definitions and examples here.
The Recorder talked to several California law school deans to pick their brains about how they are dealing with the weak job market for students. All of them described the ways their respective schools are trying to impart more practical legal skills to students before they graduate. For example, Loyola plans to launch in January a "Justice Entrepreneurship Incubator" to assist new grads who want to start solo practices focused on public interest law. It's also rolling out a "resident associate program" that will involve participating students working for a year at a small or medium-sized firm at an annual salary of $40,000. After the year is up, firms can choose to offer the recent grad a job.
UC-Davis plans to start a new law school clinic to provide legal advice to undocumented students on campus. IC-Irvine requires all students to participate in a clinic and last year added an optional "Third Year Intensive" program consisting of a self-directed project emphasizing practical skills. The school also has plans to fund at least 12 year long fellowships for law grads that will pay $40k.
Santa Clara U. School of Law launched an entrepreneurs clinic last year which is supervised by Laura Lee Norris, the former vice president of legal affairs at Cypress Semiconductor. SC also offers certificates in intellectual property and privacy law and runs the Northern California Innocence Project which provides additional opportunities for students to gain some practical legal experience.
You can read the full article from The Recorder here.
One consequence of the downturn in law school admissions and post-law school employment has been the blossoming of innovations in the law school curriculum. Professor R. Michael Cassidy presents his proposal in his article, "Reforming the Law School Curriculum from the Top Down" (forthcoming in volume 64 of the Journal of Legal Education).
Professor Cassidy proposes 3L capstone courses in particular fields taught by teams of faculty members and practitioners. The courses would focus on real-life problem solving. Here is the abstract:
With growing consensus that legal education is in turmoil if not in crisis, law schools need to take advantage of industry upheaval to catalyze innovation in the way they train their students. Curriculum reform, long the “third rail” of faculty politics, is now essential if some law schools are going to survive the present tsunami of low enrollments and stagnant hiring. One cautiously optimistic note within this doomsday symphony is that law school deans are now in extremely strong bargaining positions with their faculties and boards of trustees with respect to curriculum innovation.
In this essay, the author proposes a pivotal reform to the third year curriculum involving team-taught “Advanced Legal Problem Solving” workshops in subject specific areas, and describes the precise structure, content and staffing of such capstone courses. He argues that such workshops would significantly enhance the preparation of law students for entry into the profession, and would create an efficient and cost-effective route for law schools to satisfy rigorous new ABA accreditation standards regarding experiential learning and outcomes assessment.
You can find the full article on SSRN (here).
Though I do not teach a capstone course, I do co-teach a Land Use Planning course with a prominent practitioner. The students and I learn a lot that we would never learn from a traditional case book.
Shameless plug department:
Louis J. Sirico, Jr. The Constitutional Convention: Drafting to Charter Future History, 12
Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy 157 (2014). Here is the abstract:
Just as counterfactual historians ask how past events shape future history, we ask how successful can historical actors be in trying to chart the course of future history. Specifically, the article examines particular decisions that the deputies to the Constitutional Convention made in drafting provisions of the Constitution. With these drafting decisions, the deputies attempted to permit or prevent certain future histories from occurring.
For example, in forbidding ex post facto laws, the deputies were forbidding laws that the international community would have deemed illegitimate, Arguably, they attempted to prevent future Congresses from enacting laws that would have marked the new nation as lawless.
This article offers detailed narratives to illustrate four goals that the Convention’s deputies pursued in making various constitutional drafting decisions: to safeguard against lawlessness, to leave open the door for desirable change, to plan for the growth of an empire, and to conceptualize the nature of the new nation
Examples include the ban on ex post facto laws, the authority to define international law, the Constitution’s accommodations with slavery, the decision to permit the western territories eventually to become states, and the decision not to include the word “national” in the Constitution. The article provides a detailed narrative of the deliberations on each topic at the Constitutional Convention.
The article concludes by offering some insight on the central issue: to what extent can the careful drafting of a constitution enable the drafters to charter the future? It suggests five lessons that derive from the discussion.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
I believe that the biggest problem with traditional legal education is transfer--the traditional teaching methods do not teach students in a way that they can easily transfer their knowledge and skills to being a lawyer. As a group of authors have stated, "Students performed better when their knowledge organization matched the requirements of the task, and they performed worse when it mismatched." (Susan Ambrose et.al., How Learning Works 48 (2010)). Legal education mainly teaches students to be appellate lawyers and legal philosophers. The typical lawyer is not an appellate lawyer or a philosopher. Thus, law schools do not teach their students in a way that is best for the knowledge retrieval they will need as practicing attorneys. (more here)
Five authors have recently written an excellent article on teaching transfer to law students, Reaching Backward and Stretching Forward: Teaching for Transfer in Law School Clinics by Shaun Archer, James Parry Eyster, James J. Kelly, Jr., Tonya Kowalski, and Colleen F. Shanahan.
Teaching for transfer is important to the authors of this article, four clinical professors and one psychologist. The purpose of this article is to provide an introduction to some of the techniques that can improve the transfer of teaching. While this article focuses on applications in the law clinic, the procedures can be profitably used in doctrinal classes as well. It is the goal of the authors of this article to help you improve your teaching so that your students will understand, remember, and be able to later use what you teach them. While this may appear overly ambitious, we are not selling snake oil. Rather, we are relying on established tenets of psychology and pedagogy that have proved successful in other areas of learning.
In the first section, psychologist Shaun Archer will summarize the latest research results on memory and how to best teach so that students can retain and use information. Before transferring information or ideas from a class to a new situation, one must first anchor the concept in the mind. To do this, the student must attach the new information to the existing scaffolding in the student’s memory. Attached to the wrong structure, the new information cannot easily be used in a later application. For example, if you are told that both a successful asylum application and chlorophyll contain five elements, you might be momentarily chagrined since the word “elements” is used in two very different contexts. Your mind must travel down various discrete neural pathways to make correct sense of the use of the word in each phrase. This insight from psychology is the core of teaching for transfer.
Tonya Kowalski will then introduce the principles of teaching for transfer, emphasizing “reaching backward” and “stretching forward” techniques. She will then suggest applications of these procedures in clinical teaching. In reaching backward, a student thinks back to past experiences or concepts to find existing mental scaffolding that can be used to ‘bear the weight’ and provide an accessible resting place for the new material that is being taught. In stretching forward, a student consciously envisions potential future applications of the material being learned. Colleen Shanahan will demonstrate backward-reaching transfer techniques for teaching students skills and knowledge, using the examples of initial client interviews, soliciting facts from witnesses, researching eviction procedures, and developing an effective oral advocacy style. Jim Kelly will provide specific examples of stretching-forward transfer techniques. These range from “hugging,” identifying very similar future applications, such as the business record litany, to “bridging,” preparing students to be able to use new foundational skills or knowledge in complex and extremely varied situations."
Some of our readers may be interested in this new article by Professor Stephen Newman (New York Law School) suggesting some modest but meaningful ways we can incorporate practical legal skills into doctrinal courses. Professor Newman uses his own family law course as an example. The article is available on SSRN here. From the abstract:
Can teaching students in doctrinal courses, using traditional case-oriented materials, convey some of the skills lawyers need to practice law effectively? While the recent interest in and debate over training practice-ready lawyers makes this a timely question, my thinking about this harks back to the mid-1990s, when Harry Wellington, then dean of New York Law School, suggested that faculty members consider teaching law from the lawyer’s perspective rather than from the perspective of either the judge or the legal scholar.
In traditional doctrinal courses in law school, like my own in family law, coverage is broad and time is short. Despite the pressures of time, there is a way to incorporate discussion of various skills of the lawyer into these courses. I here suggest that in a modest but meaningful way, professors teaching doctrinal courses might inject into class discussions matters such as the role of the lawyer in gathering evidence, using narrative techniques in presenting evidence, narrowing legal claims, naming and labeling parties, counseling clients, and dealing with experts.
Regular additions to class discussion of such matters could help students see the connections between doctrinal law and practice, stimulate thinking about how lawyers go about making a persuasive case on behalf of their clients, and reinforce the student’s learning in skills and experiential learning courses. I offer some examples from my own course, with the expectation that instructors of other doctrinal courses will have their own ideas for incorporating into class discussions these ways of thinking about the lawyer’s job.
A modest degree of discussion along the lines outlined in this essay might help show students the vital connections between reading judicial opinions in an academically rigorous manner, and practicing law in a persuasive, imaginative, and artful way.
I am always on the lookout for good metaphors. Introducing students to good ones helps them develop their persuasive skills. In Ken Burns’ new PBS series on the Roosevelts, George Will offers a memorable metaphor:
The presidency is like a soft leather glove, and it takes the shape of
the hand that’s put into it,” he says. “And when a very big hand is put
into it and stretches the glove — stretches the office — the glove
never quite shrinks back to what it was. So we are all living today
with an office enlarged permanently by Franklin Roosevelt.
Paul Maharg has a detailed summary of the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers 3rd Annual Conference on his blog.
"My life is a sine curve, said David Thomson at the wrap-up — there are highs (seeing the innovation work) and there are lows (so much still to be done, how to do it, how to do it well). It was an image for the conference and I would guess spoke for most of us there. For it described the situation of the innovator: to keep ourselves balanced, open, clear-minded, adventurous, living with risk and hope, student-centred, democratic educators."
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Appalachian School of Law, a stand alone institution in Grundy, WV, has begun discussions with Emory & Henry College (here's a map) about a possible "affiliation." You may recall that ASL laid off staff and lost a few faculty through "mutual agreement" last spring as the result of declining applications (here and here). According to this story in Richmond Times Dispatch, nothing concrete is in the works - the schools are merely talking about an affiliation that each feels will be mutually beneficial. Emory & Henry says it would like to open a campus in Grundy while ASL says there are educational opportunities for its students in health care and environmental sciences at E & H. Here are some more details from the Richmond Times Dispatch:
. . . .
"[An ASL representative] said the two schools have a lot in common and a similar mission to educate students from this area.
“They have the health sciences program, we’re looking at health law,” she said. “We have a [juris doctorate degree] in natural resource law, they offer environmental science. The connection I think could be pretty natural. The curriculum of both schools works well together.”
And some E&H students already go on to ASL after graduation, Haney said, though no formal agreement has been signed.
Plus, Haney said, E&H is already looking at developing an optometry school in Grundy, where ASL is located. As school officials were in the area, the conversation to partner further with ASL naturally developed, he said.
“No decisions have been made,” he said. “We don’t know what a possible affiliation might look like; we’re just in an exploratory mode at this point.”
Right now, Haney said, officials from both schools, who last met Sept. 5, are continuing the discussion, and talking with folks on their respective campuses.
“We need to decide if a more formal affiliation makes sense for us, and the law school needs to decide if it makes sense for them,” he said. “We’re just in a very open conversation about that right now.”
. . . .
You can continued reading that story here.
From Diverse Education, here is one story:
Rosemary Anderson could be 81 by the time she pays off her student loans. After struggling with divorce, health problems and an underwater home mortgage, the 57-year-old anticipates there could come a day when her Social Security benefits will be docked to make the payments.
Like Anderson, a growing percentage of aging Americans struggle to pay back their student debt. Tens of thousands of them even see their Social Security benefits garnished when they cannot do so.
Among Americans ages 65 to 74, 4 percent in 2010 carried federal student loan debt, up from 1 percent six years earlier, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday at a Senate Aging Committee hearing. For all seniors, the collective amount of student loan debt grew from about $2.8 billion in 2005 to about $18.2 billion last year.
Student debt for all ages totals $1 trillion.
“Some may think of student loan debt as just a young person’s problem,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., chairman of the committee. “Well, as it turns out, that’s increasingly not the case.”
Anderson, of Watsonville, California, amassed $64,000 in student loans, beginning in her 30s, as she worked toward her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She said she has worked multiple jobs—she’s now at the University of California, Santa Cruz—to pay off credit card debt and has renegotiated terms of her home mortgage, but hasn’t been able to make a student loan payment in eight years. The amount she now owes has ballooned to $126,000.
You can read more here. I wish I had a practical solution.
Friday, September 19, 2014
In this editorial from the Huffington Post, Adobe's General Counsel, Michael Dillon, calls on law schools to change the way they educate students so they learn the practical skills employers want. As others have suggested (here, here and here), Mr. Dillon says that law schools need to do more to help law students understand business basics. He also mentions a few innovative programs like CU's tech accelerator project and Michigan State's ReInvent Law Laboratory (here and here) as good ideas more schools need to explore. Also among his suggestions is that schools model themselves after medical schools (here, here and here) by providing mentored, residency-like experiences during the 3L year. Though there's nothing especially new here, it's important to give an ear to the people who will be hiring our students like Mr. Dillon. An excerpt:
. . . .
You can continue reading Mr. Dillon's thoughts here.
Recently, over at Brain Pickings, we have an imaginative discussion of punctuation by the German Philosopher Theodor Adorno. Here is an imaginative excerpt discussing the symbolism of punctuation marks:
An exclamation point looks like an index finger raised in warning; a question mark looks like a flashing light or the blink of an eye. A colon, says Karl Kraus, opens its mouth wide: woe to the writer who does not fill it with something nourishing. Visually, the semicolon looks like a drooping mustache; I am even more aware of its gamey taste. With self-satisfied peasant cunning, German quotation marks (« ») lick their lips.
And here is a deeper insight on how punctuation stitches text together:
Instead of diligently serving the interplay between language and the reader,they serve, hieroglyphically, an interplay that takes place in the interior of language, along its own pathways. Hence it is superfluous to omit them as being superfluous: then they simply hide. Every text, even the most densely woven, cites them of its own accord — friendly spirits whose bodiless presence nourishes the body of language.
You can read more here (scroll down the website a bit). I know nothing about punctuation marks in other languages. A comparative exploration could prove quite interesting.
Ray Campbell has another wonderful post on legal education on the Faculty Lounge.
Here is the key paragraph:
"If I were the dean of a law school struggling to define its educational mission with regard to training lawyers in these changing times, I would get past doctrine, skills and competencies, and start with this idea of methodologies. Situation specific skills and competencies come and go, and have an uneasy relationship with the academy. Methodologies for professional practice are generalized and durable, and justify academic thought. (Again, this is not to diminish clinical and experiential education, which obviously can play a key role in teaching methodologies, but rather to fix their role in a broader framework)."
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Since August of last year, Stetson has been offering an online LL.M. degree in advocacy though its Center for Excellence in Advocacy. According to a press release published by the PreLaw Magazine blog, next spring Stetson will also begin to offer an accelerated joint J.D.-LL.M. degree that allows students to shave a semester off what otherwise would be a 4 year, 8 semester commitment. Of course this also means students can save some serious tuition money by adding the LL.M. for half the cost.
PreLaw has a few more details about the program set to start in spring 2015.
The Florida based law school’s new program will apply 12 hours of J.D. courses towards the LL.M. degree. Students must also complete an additional 12 hours of LL.M. coursework. This will allow students to earn their LL.M. degree in six months rather than twelve.
“This innovative new program allows Stetson to build on our strengths as America’s top-ranked law school for advocacy, offers students a focused learning environment to further develop skills that lawyers use every day, and distinguishes our students in an increasingly competitive legal marketplace,” said Stetson Law Dean Christopher Pietruszkiewicz. “It provides students with the opportunity to earn a second degree within a shorter time and with less expense than the traditional path for obtaining these two degrees.”
. . . .
Judge Gone Wild?
From the Washington Post:
Delvon L. King was acting as his own attorney in a gun-possession case when Charles County Circuit Court Judge Robert Nalley ran out of patience. The judge said that King was being “non-responsive” and “rude” and “citing case law that did not apply to his case.”
So Nalley ordered a deputy sheriff to administer a shock to King via a remote-controlled black box strapped to the defendant’s ankle. “Do it. . . . Use it,” Nalley said, according to a transcript of the July 23 proceeding.
The device is called a Stun-Cuff, and when the deputy pushed a button on a handheld transmitter, 50,000 pulsating volts shot into King’s Achilles’ tendon for five seconds. The defendant screamed, fell to the floor and writhed in pain.
Welcome to Judge Nalley’s courtroom, a little Guantanamo in La Plata, Md.
The judge thought the defendant was being rude and citing cases that did not apply (warn your LW students what can happen if they cite the wrong cases) You can read more here. On September 10, the Maryland Court of Appeals (the state's highest court) removed Judge Nalley from the bench. Here is a vdeo showing how stun cuffs work. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO5AurN9k60
The Third Annual Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Conference begins today in Denver. This year's theme is Accelerating Competency: Assessment in Legal Education.
"Traditional notions of assessment in legal education have limited our capacity to truly measure whether law students are receiving the education and training they need to enter the profession. Rather than using assessment as a sorting mechanism, assessment can and should be used as a powerful educational tool to serve a critical role in lawyer preparation and in improving legal education.
This conference will demonstrate how assessment can be used for teaching, for learning, and as support for law schools and educators when developing new or innovative models."
Keep up with the conference by using hashtag #ETLConference and following the conference at @ETLInitiative on Twitter, or on ETL's Facebook page. I am sure that ETL's director, Alli Gerkman will also have something to say on her twitter page here.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
A perennial rite of fall OCI season is for 2Ls to check out the American Lawyer survey results ranking summer associate programs. I guess it was a lot more meaningful (and fun) before the big legal market meltdown since jobs were way more plentiful and thus students did a lot more comparison shopping before deciding where to "summer." Today, I've got to believe most law students would be happy to get a summer job with any firm regardless of the ranking. The survey criteria, described below, is also much more practical and buttoned-down in keeping with the hard economic times. Gone are the days when firms tried to outdo each other in how much they could lavish on summer associates and the anecdotes describing bacchanalian excess that were usually included in the article accompanying the survey results.
Summer associates were asked to rank law firm summer programs based on the following:
- How interesting was the work?
- How much real work was assigned?
- How did the training and guidance measure up?
- How positive were interactions with partners and associates?
- How well did the firm communicate goals and expectations?
- How accurately did the firm portray itself during the interview process?
- How inclined are you to accept an offer?
- Provide an overall rating of the firm as a place to work.
Go here to read a further description of the methodology used by AmLaw.
Drexel University’s law school is now the Thomas R. Kline School of Law, thanks to a generous $50 million gift from prominent trial lawyer Thomas R. Kline.
Kline is one of the city's - and nation's - most prominent trial lawyers. He represented one of the victims in the Penn State University sexual-abuse cases, and became a national spokesman for others with claims against the university. He cofounded the firm of Kline & Specter P.C. in 1995 with his partner Shanin Specter, the son of the late Arlen Specter, a longtime U.S. Senator representing Pennsylvania.
Since then the firm has reached the upper ranks of law firms handling catastrophic personal-injury cases. On its website, it lists awards and settlements on behalf of clients of more than $1.7 billion, noting at the same time that the results of many other resolved cases could not be reported under terms of confidentiality agreements.
You can read more here.