Saturday, February 28, 2015
Dean of George Washington U. Law School tells Chronicle of Higher Ed "never been a better time to consider getting a legal education"
This video interview between CHE's Beckie Supiano and GW Dean (and president of AALS) Blake Morant. It is part of a series of video interviews that CHE is conducting with leaders throughout higher ed. You can see the video interview here and read the transcript as well. Below is a brief excerpt.
BECKIE SUPIANO: I'm here with Blake Morant, the dean of the George Washington University Law School and the president of the Association of American Law Schools. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us this morning.
BLAKE MORANT: Thank you so much, Beckie. I'm very, very pleased to be here with you.
BECKIE SUPIANO: So it's not the easiest time to be running a law school these days. Demand from prospective students has really tapered off. The job market for new law graduates isn't the strongest it's ever been. How are you facing these challenges at George Washington?
BLAKE MORANT: I really believe there's never been a better time to really consider getting a legal education. And just as you said before, there are many different challenges that the law school faces. I would indeed say that these challenges are pretty much standard among many institutions in higher education—the demand for services, the expense that goes into investing in an education. Those individuals who are actually considering a career, trying to think about what's going to give them the best value for their money.
I have always said that a law degree is a degree that gives to you for a lifetime. There are many different individuals doing a variety of different things who've gone to law school. Some are traditional lawyers. Some of them are in business. Some of them are in government. All of them will tell you that the skills that they received from their legal education have really benefited them in their careers. And their career paths, which now is more of a journey than a destination.
So I'm excited about being a part of this—as I consider to be continuing evolution in American legal education.
. . . .
In 1936, Yale Professor wrote his well-known diatribe against law reviews (here). His argument:
There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content. That, I think, about covers the ground. And though it is in the law reviews that the most highly regarded legal literature—and I by no means except those fancy rationalizations of legal action called judicial opinions—is regularly embalmed, it is in the law reviews that a pennyworth of content is most frequently concealed beneath a pound of so-called style.
In a recent issue of the Virginia Law Review, Judge and former law professor Harry Edwards builds on Rodell’s argument:
The most important point that Professor Rodell made is that, too often, law reviews and the articles they contain are irrelevant to law’s purpose of serving society. Intensely theoretical, philosophical, and empirical scholarship, which is very much in vogue in the legal academy these days, is rarely of interest or use to wide audiences. It is too abstract. Indeed, it does not even purport to address concrete issues relating to legal practice, procedure, doctrine, legislation, regulation, or enforcement. Yet, many young legal scholars report that they are under pressure to write articles of this sort, and law reviews readily accept their offerings for publication. There is certainly value in some philosophical, theoretical, and empirical scholarship, but it should not be preferred over other forms of scholarship. In order for law reviews to be relevant outside the legal academy, they should balance abstract articles with scholarly works that are of interest and use to lawyers, legislators, judges, and regulators who serve society through legal arguments, decision making, regulatory initiatives, and enforcement actions.
Friday, February 27, 2015
The results of an empirical study correlating success in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with the length of appellate briefs and the experience of the lawyers writing the briefs found a correlation with longer briefs and experienced lawyers:
Does greater experience in federal appellate work by a lawyer make that lawyer’s client more likely to prevail on appeal? The short answer from our study of civil appeals appears to be “yes,” at least for one side of the adversarial divide (appellees). Based on this intriguing finding and prior work by other scholars, the evidence grows that attorney experience matters in general and attorney experience in appellate work matters in particular.
Does setting out to write the most succinct brief pave the way to appellate success? The short answer from our study, for appellants in civil appeals where both sides are represented by counsel, appears to be “no.”
The authors warn that longer briefs is not the key to success:
But that cannot mean that fattening an appellate brief with more words is a promising strategy for appellate victory. The results are better understood as indicating that an appellant must do a thorough briefing job and not truncate necessary points for brevity’s sake alone. Rather than bolstering a foolish entreaty for wordiness, the results indicate that the appellate advocate needs to be given some breathing room to make the tailored argument, calibrating the necessary length of the brief to the underlying complexity of the case.
Gregor C. Sisk & Michael Heise, “Too Many Notes'? An Empirical Study of Advocacy in Federal Appeals.”
It makes sense that more experienced lawyers are more successful. As for the length of briefs, I would like to know if the longer briefs correlate with more complex issues and if more complex issues correlate with a better chance of success at the appellate level. I doubt that the shorter briefs result from the writers being overly concerned with wordiness.
I am sad to report that Hofstra law professor and former dean Monroe Freedman died yesterday. Monroe was one of the leaders in the legal ethics field; in fact, I think you could call him a giant in that area. He was also a treasured colleague. He was a friend to all of us who worked at Hofstra, and a mentor to the younger professors. He will be missed.
This is a new article posted to SSRN, here, by Professors Andrea Schneider (Marquette), Jill Cross (Pace) and John Lande (Missouri). From the abstract:
No matter what area of law students might end up practicing, dispute resolution and practical problem solving (“ADR” and PPS) will play a central role. Litigators resolve far more cases through voluntary processes than through trial. Transactional lawyers negotiate the terms of a deal. Government lawyers often are called to resolve interagency disputes and claims against the government. Defense attorneys and prosecutors routinely negotiate plea arrangements. In-house counsel work both internally and externally to resolve conflicts on behalf of their company.
Reports on what lawyers should know, including the MacCrate Report and Educating Lawyers, regularly list problem-solving, negotiation, and dispute resolution as skills that lawyers should have. Best Practices for LegalEducation called for law schools to educate students in problem-solving and in practical wisdom, in order to solve clients’ problems effectively and responsibly.
Law schools can, and many do, educate future lawyers in the knowledge, skills, and values inherent in the problem-solving approach in two ways. The first is to develop a specific and distinct Alternative Dispute Resolution curriculum. It is a best practice for every law school to make such courses available to every law student. The second is to incorporate the problem-solving orientation and skills throughout the curriculum. This is an emerging best practice. Both are addressed.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
George Washington University’s law school has up-to-date information on virtually every legal writing competition (here). I understand that often, a competition receives few or no entries. Thus students have a realistic opportunity of winning some money and a new line on the resume.
The Executive Director for the National Association of Law Placement ("NALP"), James Leipold, states in an article for the National Law Journal that the job market for new law grads has been steadily, if modestly, improving for the past three years and he expects that trend to continue in light of reduced competition for new jobs due to falling law school admissions and a generally improving economy. A brief excerpt is below but you can read his full prediction and opinions here.
Increased hiring and reduced law school enrollment could spell happy futures for graduates.
Despite the endless publicity about the poor job market for law school graduates since the recession, the entry-level legal job market has actually been improving for the past three years. The improvements have been incremental, and it is still a scrappy and competitive job market for new law school graduates, but falling law school enrollment and a strengthening economy are likely to support continuing improvements for the next few graduating classes.
. . . .
In some ways, the oversupply problem has begun to solve itself. According to the American Bar Association, the class of 2017, which is the class that started as first-years this past fall, was made up of just 37,924 students, almost exactly the number of jobs found by the class of 2013.
It would be naive to say this alone will take care of the jobs problem for law graduates, but in some ways it will. Certainly, an improving economy and a shrinking graduating class are going to help.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Monday, February 23, 2015
The MOOC Hype Fades, in 3 Charts by Steve Kolowich.
"Few people would now be willing to argue that massive open online courses are the future of higher education. The percentage of institutions offering a MOOC seems to be leveling off, at around 14 percent, while suspicions persist that MOOCs will not generate money or reduce costs for universities—and are not, in fact, sustainable."
"Back then (2012), 28 percent of respondents believed MOOCs were sustainable, while 26 percent thought they were not. In this year’s survey, 16 percent believe MOOCs are sustainable, while 51 percent think they are not."
(Scott Fruehwald) (hat tip: David Thomson)
NLJ has ranked law schools based on the percentage of 2014 grads who found jobs at the nation's top 250 law firms. You can get the full ranking of all the "Top 50" feeders schools here. In the meantime, here's the top 10:
- U. Chicago.
The National Jurist has ranked schools according to how well their bar pass rate exceeded their predicted pass rate. The magazine attributes bar success to good bar prep. The top five schools, in order, were the University of Washington, Campbell, Faulkner, Nova Southeastern, and Western State.
The factors that were used to reach the results were the school’s average LSAT, the school’s bar pass rate, and the state’s bar pass rate. You can read more here.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
The 2013-2014 survey results from the Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education (CSALE) are now available online
The Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education’s (CSALE) 2013-14 Survey of Applied Legal Education is now available on CSALE’s website http://www.csale.org/results.html and on SSRN http://ssrn.com/abstract=2566484
The 43-page report provides the summary results of CSALE’s third triennial survey of law school clinics and externships and the faculty teaching in those clinical courses. Over 88% of ABA-accredited law schools participated in the survey, which included theMaster Survey, Law Clinics Sub-Survey, Field Placement Course Sub-Survey, and Faculty Sub-Survey.
Hat tip to Professor Robert R. Kuehn.
The ABA is requiring law schools to define and apply assessment measures. However, the ABA has offered no guidance or examples of what sort of assessments it wants.
This June, AALS is offer a program on assessment: Measuring Learning Gains: Institutional Effectiveness for the New Era Program. The session is in Orlando, Florida, June 22-24. You can read about the program here.
Getting Ready to Write Next Summer
No, it’s not too early to get started. There are two pieces of the undertaking that you can deal with now so that you will have more time to write in the summer.
First, pick a topic. As you think about your topic, you may refine it, abandon it, or come up with a better topic.
2. Get going on your research. If you can get all or most of your research done in the coming months, you will be way ahead. Also, as you engage in the research, you will find reason to rethink your topic, revise it, or move on to a new topic. In addition, you will have the opportunity to think about what you want to say and about how you want to organize your article.
Summers are surprisingly short. It pays to start now.
Law Schools: Reform or Go Bust by James Huffman (Newsweek).
Dean Huffman writes, "To head off the crisis, legal educators should be talking about an entirely new business model. That the existing model has failed should be evident to any thoughtful observer. But because most law faculty view themselves as public servants and legal education as a public good, they reject the very idea that legal education can even be thought of in business terms."
He adds, "The longer legal educators remain in denial about the true magnitude of the financial crisis they face, the more devastating will be the crash. It should be obvious to even the casual observer why the existing business model is broken for all but the well-endowed, elite law schools."
"The Failed Business Model: Through the first half of the last century law schools relied on small faculties to teach large classes in facilities consisting of a few lecture halls, offices and a library. Today large faculties teach small classes in elaborate facilities housing high tech classrooms, court rooms, cafes, lounges, suites of faculty, administrative and student organization offices, computer labs, libraries and even workout rooms in a few schools. Faculty teach not only smaller, but fewer, classes, with frequent sabbaticals and research leaves. Little wonder tuition has risen in excess of inflation for four decades."
He notes that "the core factor in the escalating cost of legal education is that the guild of law school professors long ago captured the combined regulatory apparatus of the American Bar Association (ABA) and the AALS. We law professors have constructed a legal education model that, first and foremost, serves faculty interests—higher salaries, more faculty protected by tenure, smaller and fewer classes, shorter semesters, generous sabbatical and leave policies and supplemental grants for research and writing. We could not have done better for ourselves, except that the system is now collapsing."
Dean Huffman proposes the following reforms:
1. Cut faculty numbers in half by requiring faculty to devote most of their time to teaching. Reduce time devoted to scholarship and service.
2. Eliminate tenure and take advantage of a highly competitive market for law professors. "A more competitive market for law teachers would reduce costs while improving teaching quality."
3. Reduce law school from three to two years. "Although the law has become ever more complex over the last many decades, the basic intellectual skills required of practicing lawyers have changed little." "Law schools also have taken on many tasks, like instruction in basic writing skills, which should be and can be more effectively acquired prior to law school." "The fact of the matter is that most third year students are biding their time, at great expense, until they are allowed to take the bar exam and get on with their careers."
4. Stop the facilities arms race. "While new programs and larger faculties have required law schools to expand office space, the last two decades have witnessed a surge in the construction of ever more palatial law school buildings."
5. Take greater advantage of online instruction technologies. "There is little doubt that some of what lawyers need to know is best taught by professors in a classroom. But there is much that can be learned, as well or better, through online instruction."
He concludes, "These are just a few of the more obvious elements that might contribute to a new business model for legal education. Once legal educators accept that drastic change is needed, other, and probably better, ideas will surface."
Critique: I agree with Dean Huffman that the business model of legal education needs to be changed, but I think that his view of the mission and susbtantive elements of legal education is outmoded.
First, I agree that law professors should do more teaching. A law professor's job in today's law schools emphasizes scholarship at the expense of teaching. However, I think that Dean Huffman goes too far. Scholarship should remain an important part of the academy. If law professors could just teach one or two more course a year, I believe that that would be enough to rebalance the equation.
Second, as I have written several times before, I think that cutting law school to two years would be a significant mistake. (here) Dean Huffman's notion that law school should be two years is based on an outmoded view of legal education. He writes, "Although the law has become ever more complex over the last many decades, the basic intellectual skills required of practicing lawyers have changed little." As our readers might expect, I strongly disagree. The mission of law school today is to prepare graduates to practice, as much as we can. While I agree that the third year of law school has traditionally been a waste of time, law schools should reform it, not eliminate it, so that graduates are prepared for the contemporary legal world.
His view of what legal writing provides law students is nonsense. This view was prevalent when I started teaching twenty years ago, but I am shocked that a former law dean still holds it today. Legal writing professors do not provide "instruction in basic writing skills." Rather, they teach students legal analysis and how to communicate this analysis to a legal audience. Legal writing professors are not instructors of remedial grammar. What legal writing professors teach cannot be taught in undergraduate school.
Third, his proposal to provide more online instruction also reflects an antiquated view of legal education's mission and how learning works in general. While online instruction can help provide the knowledge portion of law school, it cannot give students the skills they need to become lawyers, such as legal reasoning, the ability to apply the law to facts, synthesis, critical reasoning, and creativity. Equally important, students learn more with active learning and can manipulate material better, than with passive learning.
Fourth, I do not believe that the problem with law schools is caused by tenure. Rather, I feel that law schools are hiring the wrong types of professors. Since the most important mission of a law school is to train lawyers, professors need to be as dedicated to teaching as they are to scholarship.
Finally, I cannot argue with his comments on facilities.
In sum, I believe that Dean Huffman has raised several important issues concerning legal education. However, the solution to legal education's problems must focus on both the business model and substantive legal education.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
At the “Work in Progress” blog, Starr Sackstein offers her five questions designed to ensure that you are engaged in the teaching profession for the right reasons:
- Am I excited about going to school today?
- Do I still believe that I can learn new stuff about my content?
- Are my students’ needs at the front of everything I do?
- How do I implement student voice and choice in my decision making for learning?
- What risks can I take today that model the growth mindset?
These are piercing questions. You can read discussions of the five questions here.
The ABA’s newly announced Revised Standards for Accreditation of Law Schools, approved in August 2014, should have a positive impact on efforts in regard to recognizing professional skills learned in externship; their impact on recognition of writing experience in externship is unclear. Nevertheless, working toward greater academic recognition of writing and other skills in externship is an appropriate goal for externship faculty.
Friday, February 20, 2015
Guiding a law school’s moot court program can be a challenging task, especially when the faculty advisor is new to the task or simply not well informed about the program. A great source for advisors in the newly published “The Moot Court Advisor’s Handbook”, authored by members of the Legal Writing Institute’s Moot Court Committee: James Dimitri, Melissa Greipp, and Susie Salmon (Carolina Academic Press).
These veteran advisors offer a step-by-step guide for the reader. The main topics are administering a program, managing an internal competition, advising an external competition team, and developing and managing (or hosting) an external moot court competition. Here is an excerpt from the promotional material:
No matter what your role or level of experience, the Legal Writing Institute’s Moot Court Advisor's Handbook is designed to be a resource of sound advice and best practices for running moot court and other legal skills competitions. With chapters on administering a moot court program, running an internal moot court competition, coaching teams at external moot court competitions, and running your own external moot court competition, this handbook also includes several model documents that you can use to create your own competition rules, program bylaws, judge training materials, competition scoring rubrics, and more. Drawing on the combined expertise of the Legal Writing Institute’s Moot Court Committee, this handbook can be your soup-to-nuts manual for building and administering a moot court program, a handy reference guide for the moot court newbie, or anything in between.
In the next edition, I hope the authors will consider addressing some of the structural problems with moot court programs, for example, judges who are unprepared and coaches who offer coaching that exceeds what is allowed. It is one thing to advise students how to deal with these sorts of problems in a competition. It is another to suggest ways to eliminate these problems in the first place.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
It used to be that if you had liberal arts degree but didn't know what to do with your life, you went to law school. Not any more. Now you go to a "computer coding conservatory" for three months with the hope of making mucho moola. From The Washington Post:
Once upon a time, if you emerged from college with zero marketable skills but dreams of a safe career path, you went to law school. For three years and $150,000.
Today, it seems, you go to a computer coding boot camp. For just three months and just $15,000.
In the past few years, dozens of these sexy new “coding conservatories” have cropped up around the country. They promise to teach in only a few months the hard skills required to land a stable, high-paying, lifelong career.
. . . .
Unlike most training programs, Flatiron [a less than three year old "computer coding conservatory" in NYC] is extraordinarily selective. Its admissions rate of 6 percent rivals Harvard’s. All admits must go through interviews with both co-founders and jump through other hoops such as coding a tic-tac-toe game (even if they have no background in programming). It’s no wonder, then, that employers return again and again to Flatiron for high-quality hires: Flatiron has not only trained these students, but has also pre-screened them to make sure it ends up offering only the most perseverant, passionate, marketable workers around.
This is of course not so dissimilar to the law school model. Talk to any hiring partner at a law firm, and they’ll tell you the reason they recruit at Harvard Law has less to do with what graduates learn there and more with how useful the school’s admissions process is as a screening device.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Hat tip to JD Underground.