Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Ban on Using the Word “Clearly”

A staple of conventional teaching is to admonish our students against using the word “clearly.” If something is clear, you don’t have to say it’s clear. But somehow, substituting a synonym like “plainly” will not raise eyebrows.

A search on Westlaw discloses that since January 15, 2013, the word “clearly has appeared in 73 Supreme Court opinions. Since January 9, 2012, it has appeared in 105 opinions. Are all the Justices and their law-review-trained-clerks bad wordsmiths? Now, in some of those opinions, the word may have appeared because it was used in a statute or regulation—I was not interested enough to research the matter.

However, my small project suggests that castigating a single word or woodenly applying a single rule may be too mechanical a method for improving our students’ writing.


September 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

This Year’s McArthur Scholars


The list of 21 scholars includes two practicing lawyers and one law professor. Congratulations!

Danielle S. Bassett, 32, an assistant professor of innovation at the University of Pennsylvania.

Alison Bechdel, 54, a cartoonist and graphic memoirist.

Mary L. Bonauto, 53, a civil-rights lawyer with the advocacy group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, in Boston.

Tami Bond, 50, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Steve Coleman, 57, a jazz composer and saxophonist in Allentown, Pa.

Sarah Deer, 41, a professor at the William Mitchell College of Law.

Jennifer L. Eberhardt, 49, an associate professor of psychology at Stanford University.

Craig Gentry, 41, a computer scientist at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

Terrance Hayes, 42, a poet and professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

John Henneberger, 59, a housing advocate in Austin, Tex.

Mark Hersam, 39, a professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University.

Samuel D. Hunter, 33, a playwright in New York City.

Pamela O. Long, 71, a historian of science and technology in Washington, D.C.

Rick Lowe, 53, a public artist in Houston.

Jacob Lurie, 36, a professor of mathematics at Harvard University.

Khaled Mattawa, 50, an associate professor of English language and literature at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Joshua Oppenheimer, 39, a documentary filmmaker in Copenhagen.

Ai-jen Poo, 40, a labor organizer in New York City.

Jonathan Rapping, 48, a criminal lawyer in Athens, Ga.

Tara Zahra, a professor of East European history at the University of Chicago.

Yitang Zhang, 59, a professor of mathematics and statistics at the University of New Hampshire.


September 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New England School of Law creates new 1L "Lawyering Experience" course

NESL has announced via its website the launch of a new year long 1L course called "The Lawyering Experience" that augments traditional first year coursework with interactive discussions, "on-point exercises," and practical career development sessions aimed at helping students find career paths that best suit their interests and personality types.  The course is a collaborative effort between law school faculty and staff from the career development office.   According to the school's website, the course will involve weekly meetings with faculty, career service staff, upper class students and guest speakers addressing a variety of topics related to finding the right fit between student and job.  Here are more details from the school's website:

First-year day students [will] meet weekly for classes led by TLE faculty, alumni, upper class students, and guest experts. Upcoming sessions will focus on broad themes, such as utilizing emotional intelligence, defining justice in varied settings, detecting and coping with bias, and acclimating to developments in the always-evolving field of legal technology.  


“From day one, the course will help students think about which types of legal careers best suit their temperament and interests,” says Professor Tigran Eldred, who teaches in the program and also helps to manage The Lawyering Experience blog, an integral course component that provides a forum for enhanced discussion of classroom topics.


TLE will also highlight various career tracks, with an emphasis on emerging and popular practice areas, and on building awareness about the business of running a legal practice. Sessions on professionalism, resume building, interviewing, and networking will prepare students to present themselves to prospective employers in the competitive world of job-seeking.  


“The course will provide the foundation for a more career-focused law school experience for all beginning students,” says Mandie LeBeau, CSO director. “Those who have already identified their career pathways will learn more about the steps they’ll need to take along the way, while those who are still deciding will gain insight into the choices that they’ll have as law school graduates.”

The course will culminate in a large networking event next spring for the entire 1L class, alumni and other interested members of the legal community.  You can continue reading about TLE here.


September 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Key Issues In Legal Education

The same issues seem to keep coming up in legal education.  I will list those issues, then link to our previous posts on these questions.

Does legal education need to be reformed? The Biggest Problem in Legal Education: The Mismatch Between How Law Schools Teach Their Students and What Lawyers Do In Practice, Why Did California Adopt Its New Competency Training Requirements?, Legal Education Reform Is Supported By Considerable Educational Scholarship, The Burden of Proof in Legal Education ReformReform Will Bring More Rigor to Legal Education, Georgetown 3L says law schools need to shift resources from "impractical" faculty scholarship to providing experiential learning opportunities for students, The Importance of Teaching Problem Solving in Law Schools, Important New Article On Reforming Legal Education, Illinois Bar Association: Special Committee Report--On Legal Education Reform, Comments on the ABA Proposal to Require 15 Credit Hours of Experiential Courses, Why the ABA Should Grant CLEA's Petition to Require 15 Hours of Skills Courses, "Law schools must reform:  They need to leave the ivory tower and teach practical lawyering", The New York City Bar Association’s Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession Report: Law Schools, "The Future of Legal Ed" symposium: Laws schools must impart intellectual depth, make students practice-ready, and keep tuition reasonable, Dean Chemerinsky on Legal Education.

What is holding up legal education reform?  Professor Jim Moliterno on Resistance to Change in Legal Education, A  Novel Approach To Legal Education's Problems: The "Langdellian Bargain", More  On The Influence Of The Langdellian Tradition And Langdellian Bargain On  Contemporary Legal Education, What Legal Education Reform Is And Is Not About, ABA Task Force: Working Paper: Changing the Culture of Law Schools, Misunderstanding Legal Education Reform: Peter J. Kalis, Bill Henderson on Legal Education Reform: "We had the power all along", What Legal Education Reform Is Not About I: A Straw Man, What Legal Education Reform Is Not About II: A Red Herring, Practice-Ready: The False Dichotomy Between Theory And Practice, Why Aren't Law Professors Taught to Teach?, The Lawyer of the Future.

Is legal education reform possible?  They  Said It Couldn't Be Done: Law Schools That Have Adopted Significant Educational  Reforms, Legal Education Reform at Particular Law Schools, Self-Interest in Law Schools, Denver Announces Experiential Program, Law Schools That Have Adopted Significant Educational Reforms: Other Schools With Innovative Programs and Wrap-Up, Understanding the Costs of Experiential Education.

How can law schools reform legal education?  A Model Experiential Real Estate Class, Herbert Ramy on Formative Assessment, Experiential Education in he Lecture Hall, Improving  Legal Education by Improving Casebooks, Law Schools' Untapped Resources, The Center for Excellence in Law Teaching (CELT), Deborah Jones Merritt on Client-Centered Law Schools, Thinking-Aloud  Techniques to Develop Problem-Solving Skills, A Model for Teaching Reflection in Legal Education, New scholarship: "Educating our students for what? The goals and objectives of law schools in their primary role of educating students--how do we actually achieve our goals and objectives?" , Reforming the Third Year of Law School, The Key To Legal Education Reform: Individual Effort, "Beyond Practical Skills: Nine Steps for Improving Legal Education Now", A Model for Legal Education Reform, ETL: Expansive Resource Database Launched to Help Law Schools and Professors Better Prepare Students to Be Lawyers, Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Consortium, Legal skills scholarship: "Acting Like Lawyers: Adapting Medical Education's Experiential Learning Techniques in a Legal Rotations Model" , Interview with Dean Martin Katz Concerning Legal Education Reform, One idea for law school curriculum reform - hire experienced practitioners as faculty, Enhancing Traditional Law Teaching to Produce Measurable Gains, The Unified Learning Model and Legal Education.

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spend Less Time Writing?

At Vitae, Professor Tanya Golash-Boza  tells us that we should limit the amount of time we spend on writing each day. Here is her argument:

When you write, you deplete your intellectual energy, and each of us only has a limited amount of intellectual energy. Thus, it is not the case that the more hours you spend writing, the more productive you will be.

Your intellectual energy can be a bit delicate. If you run it to its bitter end each day, you will find that you have less and less. Have you ever spent an entire day working on a project only to find that the next day you are unable to move forward? Have you ever pushed yourself to the limit to meet a deadline and found yourself unable to be productive for the next week or longer? When that happens, it is because you have pushed your intellectual energy to the limit. You have hit a wall and need time to recover.

By limiting the amount of time you spend writing, you are protecting your intellectual energy and ensuring that it gets renewed daily. For that reason, I suggest that you can be most effective by spending one to four hours on your writing each day.

You can read more here. I suspect that she may be right. However, everyone is different and works in a unique way. Some writers have long nonwriting spells followed by a flood of writing and then write nonstop for a long time. I suspect that those writers need several drafts to clean up their initial feverish drafts.

I have heard that we can work well only six hours each day. Still, for me, in order to get those six good hours, I have to sit at my desk for more hours. Distractions eat up some of the time.


September 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Experiential Legal Writing: The New Approach to Practicing Like a Lawyer

To state the obvious, not only do experiential classes need to be added to the law school curriculum, they need to be added in the proper way.  The sequence used to teach doctrine and skills is very important. Certain items need to be taught before students can move on to more advanced items.

Adam Laparello and Charles E. MacLean have written an important article concerning how material and skills should be taught in law school.  Experiential Legal Writing: The New Approach to Practicing Like a Lawyer.


"Law students engage in various types of 'experiential' learning activities while in school, such as clinics and externships, but they graduate without the experience necessary to practice law. This is traceable to a glaring deficiency at most law schools: a writing program that is comprehensive, properly sequenced, and integrated across and throughout the law school curriculum.
First, most graduates have never drafted the documents they will encounter in law practice.  Additionally, they have not drafted and re-drafted such documents while also participating in real-world simulations as they would in actual practice. Instead, students graduate having drafted an appellate brief, a contract, and maybe a complaint, and having participated in one or two oral arguments. That is akin to a medical school graduate who has perfect knowledge of human anatomy from the waist up. When a patient is carted into the emergency room with a broken leg, the medical school graduate will stand there confused and unable to diagnose or treat the patient. Law graduates face the same problem. They cannot competently solve legal problems unless they have experience in the all parts and sub-parts of the dispute resolution process, and grapple with complex facts as real attorneys would in an actual litigation.
Second, law students do not draft litigation and transactional documents in the order that they would draft them in actual practice. They do not understand that good writing is re-writing, not merely revising.  Students do not have a practical understanding of the role and purpose that litigation and transactional documents play in the dispute resolution process, or learn to exercise strategic judgment as writers, counselors, negotiators, and advocates. Graduating without a contextual understanding of law practice — and outstanding persuasive writing ability — leaves students without many essential skills.
The authors’ experiential legal writing model has two components: large-scale or cross-curricular sequencing, and small-scale or intra-curricular sequencing. In large-scale sequencing, which is applied in the first year of law school only, doctrinal and legal writing faculty design a cross-curricular hypothetical fact pattern containing legal issues from all first-year courses, and then design sequential writing assignments (and simulations) as they would occur in actual practice.
Small-scale sequencing occurs exclusively in the legal writing curriculum, and consists of two subcomponents.  First, students receive a multi-issue hypothetical in the first year that is chronologically sequenced and takes students through each step of the litigation and transactional process. In addition, the legal writing programs extend over all six semesters of law school, thus giving students sufficient time to practice and develop their writing skills on a variety of documents.  The goal is to produce graduates who are outstanding re-writers, not just good writers, and who can practice, not merely think, like lawyers.
The article also includes numerous diagrams on sequencing.
Some key excerpts:

1. "Experiential learning encompasses five elements: (1) experiencing, (2) reflecting, (3) processing, (4) generalizing (identifying learned principles), and (5) applying to different contexts the information learned from the initial experience."

 "The experiential learning cycle must be connected to the development of professional competencies, and students must acquire these competencies before they can apply them to different contexts. Context is essential, because it often requires a student to apply or emphasize different skills. Thus, mastering a competency in one context, e.g., drafting an appellate brief, does not mean that a student can draft a motion to dismiss or a trial brief effectively. Likewise, oral advocacy skills at the trial and appellate court levels are fundamentally different. Thus, the skills a student acquires when drafting an appellate brief or arguing before an appellate court do not necessarily transfer to other litigation documents or stages of litigation. In other words, law schools must train students to master the skills that apply to specific documents in particular contexts, but that do not necessarily apply across contexts. For that reason, repetition of the same activity and exposure to the various areas of litigation and transactional practice that a student will encounter in the real world are essential. Coupled with the fact that the skills required to competently practice law (including writing, reasoning and analysis, research, sound judgment, strategic decision-making, counseling, and negotiation) are inherently complex, students need sufficient time to repeat, reflect, and refine context-specific skills. 

2. "If experiential learning is overused in a first-year doctrinal course, it may interfere with substantive knowledge acquisition and development of critical thinking skills."

"Doctrinal courses should, however, incorporate more problem sets or fact patterns so that students can apply their legal knowledge to hypothetical or real-world problems. One way to facilitate this is by flipping the classroom, which requires students to watch short videos before class in which professors are outlining the substantive law.  This allows the professors to spend less time in class discussing basic legal principles, and more time discussing real-world problems to which students must apply their knowledge. Such an approach is experiential in the sense that it trains students to be problem solvers, but it maintains the focus on developing critical thinking skills."

3. "One mistake law schools make is conflating practical skills and experiential learning. That causes students to enroll in clinics and externships before they are ready. Experiential legal writing, however, teaches practical skills, persuasive writing and client counseling negotiations skills, and improves analytical ability, both of which are essential to maximizing outcomes in clinics and preparing students for the real-world practice of law."

4. "Of course, success of an experiential legal writing model depends on effective assessment, both at the formative and evaluative stage, that measure real-world skills and core competencies."

I agree that first-year doctrinal courses should not include complicated experiential assignments, as defined in the article.  Rather, they should go deeper into teaching students how to think like a lawyer and how to apply that knowledge in problem-solving exercises.  Thinking like a lawyer should include the miniskills that make it up--deductive reasoning, analogical reasoning, distinguishing cases, synthesis, and policy-based reasoning.  (see my book, Think Like a Lawyer: Legal Reasoning for Law Students and Legal Professionals (ABA Pub. 2013).   Students should also apply their newly-learned doctrinal knowledge to problems in first-year classes.  For example, at the end of the unit on intentional torts, the students could solve intentional torts problems, both outside and inside class.

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday funnies: Professors give dramatic readings from their bad "Rate My Professor" evals

Lehigh University professors read some of their bad student evaluations posted on Rate My Professor.  My personal favorite is the professor who responds to his student's assessment that he's "useless to the [Integrated Product Development] program, general moron" with "useless to the IPD program? Hell, I started the dang IPD program!"

Hat tip to Business Insider.  Enjoy the video below.


September 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

NYU Professor of social media bans classroom laptops

Professor Clay Shirky of NYU is no Luddite - he's been teaching classes about the internet since 1998, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and author of Cognitive Surplus:  Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age among several other works.  He describes himself as an "activist for free culture movement" and the last guy you'd think would want to censor people's internet use. But in this blog post on media shift (hat tip to Life Edited), he says he finally bit the bullet this year and banned laptops, smartphones and tablets from his classroom unless he's got an in-class project requiring their use.  For many years he listened to the conventional wisdom about "striving to be more engaging then the distractions that tempt students," treating his students like adults who pay their money and are free to check-out if they want, blah, blah, blah.  At the start of this year, though, the growing mountain of evidence showing not only that students who surf in class do more poorly academically but that they also disrupt neighboring students who are  trying to pay attention, pushed him over the edge.  Welcome, brother.

Professor Shirky's post provides a nice point-by-point summary of research studies and cognitive science arguments in support of a "no laptop use" policy (for those who prefer the sound of that to "laptop ban") unless they're being put to bona fide use during class. 

Here's an excerpt:

Why Clay Shirky Banned Laptops, Tablets and Phones from His Classroom

. . . .

I have known, for years, that the basic research on multi-tasking was adding up, and that for anyone trying to do hard thinking (our spécialité de la maison, here at college), device use in class tends to be a net negative. Even with that consensus, however, it was still possible to imagine that the best way to handle the question was to tell the students about the research, and let them make up their own minds.

The “Nearby Peers” effect, though, shreds that rationale. There is no laissez-faire attitude to take when the degradation of focus is social. Allowing laptop use in class is like allowing boombox use in class — it lets each person choose whether to degrade the experience of those around them.

. . . .

Continue reading Professor Shirky's full blog post here.


September 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)


Around this time of the year, we often talk with students about outlining—outlining their substantive courses and outlining as a first step before drafting a document. However, we need to remember that for some students, outlining does not come easily. Some students like flow charts. Some students think in pictures. These thinking processes are ingrained and are not amenable to change.

At the same time, writing in outline form is essential to both organizing class material and drafting documents. Lawyers think like outlines. Students who think in other ways must eventually take their conceptually organized thoughts and convert them to outline forms. This transformation is not always easy. However, we can help by acknowledging to students that many of them organize their thoughts differently, and for them, outlining is not the first step. It is a second step.


September 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shouldn't Law Students Who Have Been Taught How to Draft a Contract Know More Contract Doctrine Than Those Who Haven't Been?

Shouldn't law students who have been taught to draft a contract know more contract doctrine than those who haven't been?

Opponents of legal education reform seem to think that if law schools add more practical education that much will be lost from the traditional curriculum.  But, is this really true?  Will students learn less doctrine if they are taught how to draft a contract?

My belief is that they will learn even more doctrinal knowledge and understand it better than they would in a purely doctrinal class if they are taught how to draft contracts.  It requires a great deal of doctrinal knowledge to draft a contract.  Moreover, to draft a contract, students need to be able to manipulate their doctrinal knowledge--to apply doctrinal knowledge to new situations.  Would students get this from a doctrinal class that uses only traditional methods of teaching contracts?  I don't think so.

Recent educational scholarship supports this.   It is an established fact that students remember more, are better able to use knowledge, and are better able to transfer knowledge between domains with active learning. (E.g., Gerald F. Hess, Value of Variety: An Organizing Principle to Enhance Teaching and Learning, 3 Elon L. Rev. 65, 81-82 (2011); Diane F. Halpern, Teaching Critical Thinking for Transfer across Domains: Dispositions, Skills, Structure Training, and Metacognitive Monitoring, 53 Am. Psych. 449, 453 (1998)).  Problem solving, which requires active participation, challenges students to develop legal skills in context rather than relying on knowing legal rules, and it facilitates self-reflective learning. (Shirley Lung, The Problem Method: No Simple Solutions, 45 Williamette L. Rev. 743, 775 (2009)).

Last week, I discussed an experiential real estate class at the University of Colorado taught by Chad Asarch.  (here)  I cannot image that a student would learn more doctrine in a traditional real estate course than they would in Professor Asarch's course.  To be able to use something is to know it.

Teaching doctrine and teaching how to use that doctrine are not mutually exclusive.  Rather, they work together.   Legal education reformers do not want to completely eliminate the old methods of teaching.  I believe that the Socratic method is a valuable tool when used correctly.  For example, a first-year torts course could teach doctrine using the Socratic method, then have the students solve problems after they have learned the doctrine.

Similarly, all the textbooks I am aware of written by legal education reformers (even my own) still include appellate cases.  However, these textbooks include much more than cases; they teach more than just putting.  (here)

In sum, teaching doctrine and teaching skills go together.  By having students draft documents, solve problems, and conduct trials, students learn more doctrine and understand it better than they do in purely doctrinal courses.

(Scott Fruehwald)

P.S. Should students who are planning to become litigators take drafting courses?  Yes, as stated above, students learn more in an active course than they do in a passive one.  If you know how to draft a contact, you will be able to see the problems better in contracts.

September 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips for new associates on making a good first impression

Not only is it OCI season, this is also the time of year when most new law grads join start working for their employers after a summer break following the bar exam.  These tips from the Legal Intelligencer are intended to help you get off on the right foot by making a good impression your first day on the job.

Get It Right the First Time: Making a Good Impression

  • Communicate.  Do not feel awkward about keeping your assigning attorney apprised of the status of your work. Let your assigning attorneys know that you are working on their projects and that you are making progress. . . .
  • Assimilate.  Become a part of the fabric of your office—even if it means stepping outside of your comfort zone. Work to build relationships with everyone in your office, not just members of your team or practice group. . .
  • Be Conscientious.  It is important from the outset to not only be the best writer but also to be a careful writer. The best practice is to review and re-review your work. . . .
  •  Seek a Mentor.
  • Set the Tone. The best piece of advice I got as a new attorney was that it is easier to make a good reputation than to get rid of a bad reputation. . . .

Continue here to read the full explanation that goes along with each of the above tips.



September 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Three Ideas for Improving Law Reviews

At Concurring Opinions, Professor Dave Hoffman (Temple Law) offers his thoughts. He has concluded that a law review’s efforts to improve its reputation will not succeed.. Instead, he proposes three productive tasks for law reviews:

1. Improve the student experience: Ask the student members what they don’t like.

For many, that’s going to be the process of writing mini-law review articles (often called “comments,”sometimes called “notes.”)  Stop encouraging students to write this overfootnoted, circuit-split-obsessed, dreck and mandate, instead, short pieces that summarize recent developments.  For other students, it going to be interactions with managing editors. You should train people how to deliver criticism, and how to take it.

2. Create an institutional memory:

If I were a law review, I would first digitize and free the entirety of the archive. (By “free” I mean free it from the limited duration of Westlaw, and the limited search functions of Hein.) Create “errata” features, which ask authors 10, 20, or 30 years after an article’s publication to revisit it with a more critical eye, thus excavating it from the pile. Highlight other past articles by finding editors who worked on those volumes and asking them to comment on them in podcasts or in video chats. Experienced lawyers reading articles might have a vastly different perspective than the green articles editors they were – and could, not incidentally, reflect on the value (or lack thereof) of the skills that Law Review teaches.

3. Network:

Invite former editors to come to campus and give talks, host cocktail parties and receptions for class years, and generally develop the law review’s alumni network so that current students – and past ones – can benefit in a way that goes beyond a line on the resume.

You can read the full posting here. On several occasions, I have tried to invade the world of our law reviews in hopes of improving them. I found student editors fiercely independent and uninterested in rethinking what they do. I may try again. I wish Professor Hoffman the best of luck.


September 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

2015 U.S. News Law School Rankings

Here they are, for what they’re worth (not much IMHO).


September 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"So Why Not an Experiential Law School . . . Starting with Reflection in the First Year?"

This is a new article by Professor Daniel Schaffzin (Memphis) to be published in 7 Elon L. Rev. __ (2014-15) and available here on SSRN.  From the abstract:

Urged on by increasingly agitated calls from across the legal community for more ‘practice-ready’ graduates, law schools are now more than ever engaged in a good-faith struggle with questions of how to most effectively develop and implement coursework designed to achieve that aim. Over a relatively short period of time, most schools have responded by introducing an ever-expanding array of clinics, externships, and skills-focused simulation courses. Historically treated by many within the teaching academy as an approach to be avoided, experiential education is now being touted as the remedy curative of legal education’s problems. 

In this essay, I propose that effective implementation of experiential education must begin with training law students how to learn from experience during the first year of law school. After a brief review of the seismic shift that has taken lawyer training from doctrine-exclusive to skills-heavy in focus, I overview the reflective pedagogies and practices from which so many of the benefits of experiential education emanate. I also consider the ways in which two Australian law schools have added reflective skills learning to the first-year curriculum. Thereafter, I offer a prescription for carefully incorporating reflection into the first year as a means of readying students for the extensive legal training -- including clinics, externships, and simulation coursework -- that lies ahead. By adopting a comprehensive experiential curriculum starting right away, I argue, students will be permitted a deeper form of learning and be that much more practice-ready upon graduation.


September 13, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

1L Students and Wordiness

A recent conversation with a 2L student gave me an insight into why some 1Ls are wordy writers. When students (and other writers) go on with excessive sentences, vague content, and questionable organization, sometimes it’s because they are not sure of what they are talking about. When they do not fully understand the content of what they are trying to say, their writing often becomes vague, wordy, and disorganized.

1L students are new to the law. No wonder they often are confused about the material with which they are grappling. As a result, their writing suffers.

For these students, pruning their prose is more than a matter of deleting needless words. Helping them to conquer wordiness requires a more sophisticated pedagogy.


September 13, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Student Dissatisfied with E-Textbooks?

A large study of undergrads suggests as much:

Nearly half of students have been assigned an e-textbook for a course, but they're not uniformly happy about it. Only 44 percent were at least somewhat or very happy using an e-book; 39 percent were somewhat or very unhappy. The researchers noted that dissatisfaction with e-textbooks appears to rise slightly as students progress through school.

You can read more here.

I would not be surprised if the results were the same for our students. Over the years, law book publishers have tried to promote ebooks, with limited success. I don’t know if the current effort will prove more successful.


September 12, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Understanding the Costs of Experiential Education

Understanding the Costs of Experiential Legal Education by Martin Katz.


"Law schools across the country are under pressure to do two seemingly contradictory things. First, we must improve the education we offer. That is, we must do a better job of preparing our graduates for practice. Most commentators, including me, believe that this requires law schools to increase the quantity and quality of experiential education we provide to students.  At the same time, law schools are under pressure to control costs.  If we do not do so, we risk pricing a large and growing segment of the population out of our market.

Can law schools meet both of these mandates simultaneously? The received wisdom seems to be that experiential education is the most expensive type of education.  So can we offer more and better experiential education and still control costs? The short answer is probably yes. But to do so, it is important to understand the cost structure of experiential education. This Essay will attempt to help with that project.

The Essay will start by examining some of the work that that has already been done on trying to understand the costs of experiential education, noting some important gaps in that work. The Essay will then fill those gaps, providing a comprehensive and up-to-date model of the costs of different types of experiential legal education, as well as the costs of some types of more traditional legal education. It will conclude by discussing some ramifications of the cost model for deans and curriculum committees as they think about how to manage and expand their schools’ experiential offerings.

It is important to note that this is an Essay about cost, which represents only half of the important question of value – which deals with costs versus benefits. The other half of the equation is the set of benefits provided by experiential education. For purposes of this Essay (and more generally), I will assume that the benefits of experiential legal education are extremely high. Thus, even where the costs of experiential education are high, there is likely to be significant value in offering this type of education to our students. But the focus of this Essay will be on the cost side of the value inquiry. Without understanding cost, as well as benefits, we cannot meaningfully discuss the value of experiential legal education."
In light of the many reports (Carnegie, Best Practices, Il. Bar, Ca. Bar, NYC Bar, etc.) that call for greater experiential education in law schools and studies like Dean Katz's, how can some law schools continue to offer few experiential courses?
A question for Dean Katz:  Don't clinics draw in grant money?  How does this affect their cost?

September 12, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Student Lawyer Magazine on alternative careers for JDs

The September issue of the ABA's Student Lawyer Magazine is devoted to brainstorming ideas about alternative career options for lawyers.  Here's a sampling of articles:

Finding Your Nonlegal Niche

We sit down with four JD-wielding professionals who’ve used their degrees to pursue other passions.


Mastering the New Rules

The rise in ADR has changed the legal game and how it’s played. Here’s a crash course on the skills you need to come out on top.


How to Rethink Interview Preparation for Alternative Careers

Considering careers beyond practice? Follow these tips to help you shift your strategy when preparing for a nonlegal interview.

Continue reading here.


September 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Three Biggest Classroom Distractions

According to an unscientific survey of professors, they are:

Cell phones

Students arriving late


If you have a subscription to the Chronicle of Higher Education, you can read some of the remedies that some professors have (here). But I suspect that most of us know how to handle the problems. The Chronicle article also lists the runners-up:

Talking or whispering during class attracted the fourth-most vitriol, with sneezing, wheezing, or sniffling coming in a close fifth. Behind that were students leaving class early, food and its noisy packaging, laughing, technology failure, students packing up prematurely, and mechanical noise (like from the air conditioning or a lawn mower).

My biggest distraction is the material that I’m am teaching. It’s easy for me to get so wrapped up in explaining the material, that I fail to focus on the students—their faces, their conduct,  etc.


September 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Model Experiential Real Estate Class

Chad G. Asarch has described how he taught an experiential real estate class at the University of Colorado Law School.  (here)

He writes,

"In developing the course, I analyzed the actual work practicing lawyers undertake in representing a client in a real estate transaction. Among other tasks, real estate lawyers must be able to (1) draft a transaction document, and (2) identify potential changes to a transaction document prepared by counsel representing other parties to the transaction. To practice successfully, a real estate lawyer (or any transactional lawyer) must understand the mechanics of a transaction document and how the provisions of such a document fit together."

He continues,

"My goal became teaching students how to review and suggest revisions to actual real estate transaction documents (for example, a purchase and sale agreement for real property), as though they represented one of the parties—buyer or seller—to the transaction. To comment successfully on a transactional document, the students had to learn what the document is designed to achieve and how the document is structured to accomplish that objective. The students had to apply the concepts they learned in their property and contracts law classes (and to a lesser degree torts, civil procedure, and constitutional law) to identify the manner by which a transaction document allocates risk and memorializes the agreement of the parties."

"I recalled that, during my law school experience, I never saw the entirety of a transaction document. . . .  As a result, I decided to build the course solely around documents used in actual real estate transactions. To teach students how to review and revise transaction documents, I structured the class so that they would have to practice reviewing and revising those documents as described below."

Professor Asarch then describes how he taught the class in great detail.  Concerning the final project [an actual purchase and sale agreement my company had used as the buyer in a recent transaction but modified to include mistakes and some key variances from the terms of the deal agreed to by the buyer and the seller], he writes, "The results exceeded my expectations. I did not expect any first or second-year associate at a law firm to even understand how to perform the task, let alone identify a significant portion of the issues in the document. However, the average student identified about 70% of the major issues and about 30% of the total number of issues in the document. The top students identified all of the major issues and about 50% of the total issues."

He concludes,

"My experience demonstrates that it is possible to teach law students practical/applied lawyering skills in a classroom (non-clinical/non-externship) setting. It also shows that the students crave such instruction. . . .  However, to prepare students for their lives as lawyers after graduation, law schools need to teach the skills of lawyering in addition to the theory of the law. . . .  The legal education system needs to fuse the apprenticeship and classroom/lecture models. Regardless of what future law school classes might look like, law professors can help their students succeed by incorporating real legal documents into their course materials."

This article shows how a professor can teach a model real estate class.  Law schools need many more classes like this to prepare students for practice.

(Scott Fruehwald) (hat tip ETL Blog)

September 10, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)