Thursday, April 23, 2015
The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning will hold their annual conference in Spokane on June 13-14. You can find more info here.
Among the topics:
Experiential Learning Across the Curriculum
Drafting Legal Documents in Your Casebook Course
Incorporating Experiential Learning into Contracts (and Other First-Year Classes)
Developing the Case for 1L Curriculum Reform
Adding a Transactional Perspective to the 1L Contracts Course – Almost Painlessly
The Lawyering Lab: 1L Curricular Reform, Building Consensus for Experiential Education and Faculty Integration
Experiencing Civil Procedure
The Other Socratic Method: Reflection
Going to a conference like this can completely change your perspective on legal education.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Becoming a lawyer has never been a more obvious decision
- Law schools need bodies.
- The Law School Admission Test is less competitive than it used to be.
- A good applicant has an excellent shot at getting in.
- When I say good applicant, I'm probably talking about you.
- The law job market is better than it looks.
Read the whole article here.
Hat tip to ATL.
It’s the same old story—the rich get richer and . . . . From the Washington Post:
The 10 richest universities in America hold nearly a third of the total wealth, in cash and investments, amassed by about 500 public and private institutions. The 40 richest hold almost two-thirds of the total wealth.
And their financial edge is widening. These schools are drawing an outsized share of gifts to colleges and universities. Their assets grew at at a far faster rate from 2009 to 2014 than the portfolios of schools in the middle and bottom of the pack.
. . . .
The top 10 private names are familiar: Harvard University ($42.8 billion in cash and investments in fiscal 2014), Stanford University ($31.6 billion), Yale University ($25.4 billion), Princeton University ($21.3 billion), Massachusetts Institute of Technology ($15.2 billion), University of Pennsylvania ($11.9 billion), Duke University ($11.4 billion), Northwestern University ($10.4 billion), Columbia University ($9.9 billion) and University of Notre Dame ($9.5 billion).
You can read more here.
The Importance of Experiential Learning for Development of Essential Skills in Cross-Cultural and Intercultural Effectiveness
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Sparked by a $1 million anonymous gift, the law school has announced plans to purchase its campus, which it now is renting. It has $2.2 million to go on its capital campaign. From the Ave Maria Herald (excerpts):
The Ave Maria School of Law, which moved to Florida so it could be located on the same campus as Ave Maria University, has abandoned those plans and announced it intends to purchase its 12-acre campus at the Vineyards development in North Naples.
The Vineyards campus now is owned by Ave Maria University, which purchased it more than a decade ago as a temporary campus for the university while the town of Ave Maria and the new AMU campus was being built.
The law school and AMU are separate and independent, but both were founded by Tom Monaghan who has said he initially wanted to have them as part of the same institution that he was planning in Michigan. He said that even though the two schools had separate governance, it was vitally important to him to have them co-located. "From the beginning, I put so much money into Ave Maria School of Law because it was to be the flagship for AMU," Mr. Monaghan said in a recounting of the history of Ave Maria five years ago. "I could live with the fact it was a separate entity, as long as it had the same name and was on the same campus."
Monday, April 20, 2015
From an article by Northeastern University School of Law Dean Jeremy Paul published in a special legal education supplement to the New York Law Journal:
Law school applications are declining more slowly and entry level hiring has begun to recover. First-year law school enrollments have shrunk from more than 52,000 in 2010 to a far more sustainable 38,000 in 2014. Recent studies by Profs. Frank McIntyre and Michael Simkovic continue to vindicate the long-run earning power of the J.D. degree. Perhaps you can hear law school deans breathing sighs of relief. Alas, it is way too soon for that.
Law schools that view nascent positive trends as license to return to business as usual will be missing the far more profound changes in the legal profession that demand new approaches to legal education. The most significant change is the extent to which knowledge of the law is cheaper and easier to obtain for everyone with access to a computer. Future lawyers can expect to earn less for merely informing clients about the law. How lawyers will add value in this changed environment is the question of the day. How lawyers should be trained to do so should be a top priority for every legal educator in the United States.
Some things, of course, will never change. Clients will always need advocates capable of translating large amounts of complex information into compelling written and oral arguments. People of means will readily pay for counselors who can assist them in memorializing transactions, negotiating deals, and navigating regulatory complexity. And the lawyerly skills of separating wheat from chaff, managing complexity, and paying attention to detail will be prized by clients and employers for years to come. The Socratic method, the reading of appellate cases, and the traditional issue-spotting exam have proven successful at training lawyers in these familiar ways. But if this is all we do, our students will graduate unprepared for an economy in which a wider array of skills will be needed to thrive.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
The Pulitzer Prizes have just been awarded by Columbia University. The awards are chosen by a board of jurors for Journalism, Letters, Music and Drama. The awards for Letters include Fiction, Nonfiction, History, Biography or Autobiography, Poetry, and Drama.
Compliments of Powells.com, here are the winners and descriptions of their masterpieces.
I would love to be a libertarian like Allen Mendenhall. I believe that freedom is the most basic of all human rights. However, in my many years on this earth, I have observed that many human beings take advantage of their fellow human beings. Consequently, we need government to protect individuals from those who would exploit them.
Mr. Mendenhall has penned an essay for Newsweek entitled The Bar Exam is Unfair and Undemocratic. He declared, "The bar exam is a barrier to entry, a form of occupational licensure that restricts access to a particular vocation and reduces market competition." He noted, "In more recent decades, economist Milton Friedman disparaged occupational licensure as 'another example of governmentally created and supported monopoly on the state level.'” "The bar exam is one of the most notorious examples of this 'increasing tendency.'” Among the other reasons he is against the bar exam are 1) it excludes "the lower classes from participation in the legal services market," 2) it "tests the ability to take tests, not the ability to practice law," 3) "the best way to learn the legal profession is through tried experience and practical training," and 4) the bar exam and its accompanying requirements are costly. He adds, "Today, with services like Amazon, eBay, Uber and Airbnb, consumers are accustomed to evaluating products and service providers online and for wide audiences. Learning about lawyers’ professional reputations should be quick and easy, a matter of a simple Internet search. With no bar exam, the sheer ubiquity and immediacy of reputation markets could weed out the good lawyers from the bad, thereby transferring the mode of social control from the legal cartel to the consumers themselves."
While I agree with many of Mr. Mendenhall's criticisms of the bar exam, he cannot overcome the main reason for having the bar exam--the protection of the public. He can call this paternalistic all he wants, but law is a complicated field that requires many years of education under the guidance of experts. While he may yearn for the halycon days of law apprenticeships, the world and the legal profession have become much more complex than when apprenticeships were the main method of legal training 150 years ago. He has also failed to tell us who will provide this apprenticeship training; lawyers today do not have time to teach large groups of apprentices.
We license doctors, plumbers, car mechanics, hair stylists, and we do this for the same reason we license lawyers--for the public good. I do not want to go to a doctor who has had just an apprenticeship. As I have said before, doctors protect a person's physical health; lawyers protect a person's economic and social health, as well as her rights.
I do not agree with Mr. Mendenhall that consumers can properly evaluate lawyers based on internet information. Look at a restaurant review on Yelp. Many consist of both high praise and strong criticism for the same place. How can I decide which one is right? Has anybody ever bought a piece of junk on eBay?
As I have written here many times, the bar exam is very flawed, and it needs to be reformed. The answer is not to eliminate it, as Mr. Mendenhall proposes, but to revise it to make it test what lawyers actually do in practice.
P.S. Theodore Seto has made the following comment on the Tax Prof Blog concerning this story: "Mr. Mendenhall has probably never seen the consequences of really bad lawyering. Let me tell you: it's a nightmare for the client and there is no effective remedy. None. The client loses his or her rights, perhaps several decades of his life, perhaps his or her child, perhaps his or her life's savings. The really bad lawyer is almost always judgment-proof. There is no effective remedy. None."
Sunday, April 19, 2015
At Stanford, Professor Joe Bankman has collaborated with others to create a two hour course that uses cognitive therapy to deal with law school stress. I know that a few other schools also are finding ways to deal with the issue.
You can read more here.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Over at De Novo: A Virginia Appellate Law Blog, we get a theory on how George R.R. Martin, the author of Game of Throne writes:
I came across a blog post that makes a scientific wild-ass guess about Martin’s progress on The Winds of Winter, the long-awaited sixth book in his series. The post itself serves as prima facie evidence that, as big a tool as I am, I barely register on the SF geekdom spectrum.
More important for our purposes, though, the post includes a link to a summary of Martin’s writing process. Here’s the short version of that process:
- Martin does not have a hard outline for his seven-book series. He knows basically where the story is headed, and he lets it evolve organically. He ends each book when it gets too long, or when he reaches a natural breaking point.
- Martin writes lots and lots of draft chapters, then eventually finalizes them. He also writes partial chapters and fragments when ideas grab him.
- Martin does not write in a linear order. Instead, he occupies a particular character’s headspace and stay there for weeks, writing a series of point-of-view chapters for that character. This can result in timeline problems, and it can also cause him to write way too much material for a character just because he’s fun to inhabit (ahem, Tyrion).
- At the end of the writing process, Martin murders every character you love and throws in a scene where starving children fight over a half-cooked puppy. (Okay, I made this one up.)
Jay O’Keeffe writes:
This really struck me, because it’s just about the opposite of the way that you’d approach an appellate brief.
Now, I recognize that epic fantasy and appellate advocacy are about as distinct as any two genres can get. And I appreciate that Martin is a super-genius writing the great fantasy epic of our time, while I’m just a hack with a blog. Even so, his organic writing process is basically a recipe for missing deadlines and overshooting page limits. That’s generally okay, if you’re the American Tolkien putting together work that people will be reading fifty years from now.* It’s somewhat less okay if you’re bound by deadlines and strict word counts, and your readership has very limited time and patience. Martin’s writing process is an object lesson in what not to do as an appellate lawyer.
O’Keefe advises writing a brief this way:
- Brainstorm, and hash out all of your ideas in the beginning of the process.
- Draft a hard outline. Explain your ideas in full sentences. Follow the outline.
- Write in a linear manner, from start to finish. That is how your reader will approach the document.
- Edit mercilessly. Aim to cut 50% of your first draft, and to file a brief that comes in at 50% of the page or word limit.
- Never kill off Oberyn Martell.
This method may work for some writers, but not for others. There are many ways to write. Each writer must find the way that works for him or her.
Friday, April 17, 2015
The Harvard Business Review blog has an interesting post by Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of the newly released book No One Understands You and What to Do About It discussing how the impression we make on others is often a complete distortion of reality. Professor Halvorson points out that the way others see us is far from fair, accurate or even rational. We present only a partial picture of who we really are so others are left to fill in the blanks according to their biases and perceptions. To help people form a more accurate picture of who you really are, you need to become more "judgeable" which means disclosing more information about yourself so there are fewer gaps to be filled in by others. An excerpt:
. . . .
The uncomfortable truth is that most of us don’t come across the way we intend. We can’t see ourselves truly objectively, and neither can anyone else. Human beings have a strong tendency to distort other people’s feedback to fit their own views. We know this intellectually, and yet we rarely seem to recognize it as it’s happening.
That can cause you big problems in your personal and professional life. People may not trust you, may not like you, or may not even notice you, as a result of these errors in perception. If you have ever felt yourself underestimated or misjudged, if you have stepped on toes without meaning to and been called to task for it, if you have wanted to cry out “That’s not fair!” when false and hurtful assumptions have been made about you, I’m here to tell you that you are right. The way we see one another is far from fair. In fact, much of this process of perceiving other people isn’t even rational. It is biased, incomplete, and inflexible. It is also largely (but not entirely) automatic.
And yet no one is entirely unknowable either. In fact, some of us are actually easier to understand than others. These people seem to express themselves in ways that allow others to perceive them more accurately. Psychologists refer to this as being more or less “judgeable,” or as personality expert David Funder calls it, being a “good target.” What actually makes someone more judgeable? Funder has argued that in order for people to be accurate in their assessments of someone else, four things need to happen. The target must (1) make information available and (2) make sure that information is relevant. Then, the perceiver must (3) detect, or pay attention to that information and (4) use it correctly.
Let’s focus for now on the parts that are in the your (i.e., the target’s) control. To be judgeable, you are going to need to make information about yourself available to others, and it should provide evidence of the particular qualities you are trying to convey. (In other words, just knowing that you graduated at the top of your class at Harvard tells me nothing at all about how personable, trustworthy, creative, or resilient you are). So if you are a very shy and reserved person, who reveals next to nothing about your thoughts and feelings to the people around you, then they will know very little about you – aside from the fact that you are shy and reserved, obviously. The danger there is that people will generally fill in the blanks themselves, imagining a whole personality profile for you that may or may not – probably not – be accurate.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
That is, students take some course work online and some in person. From JDJournal:
Hybrid online degrees may be the new future for law schools. According to an article by CNBC titled “Digital Cracks the Final Frontier: Law School”, William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota applied and was given permission to start a hybrid online program by the American Bar Association. While there are several online law schools already in existence, they are not recognized by the ABA as one of the 205 accredited law schools. The William Mitchell College of Law’s first class of 85 students from 31 states and two countries started taking classes in January. The students include five medical doctors, a college professor, and a banker, with the ages ranging from 22 to 67.
The hybrid course requires students to participate half online and half in person. William Mitchell College of Law’s website explains that students start the 8 semester part time program with a week on campus for the first and third semesters and conclude each semester with another week on campus. This allows the students to first meet professors and then apply the knowledge gained during the semester. Students are also required to have two externships during their last two years of the program.
Not much time on campus. Because students have to spend some time on campus, , I assume that most participants will be local people. You can read more here.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
In an interview with the Employment Insider, NALP's Executive Director James Liepold offered a three-point strategy for new law grads looking for jobs in a very tough market: 1. Network through online sites like LinkedIn; 2. gain as much practical experience in law school as possible via clinics and externships; and 3. most important is to rack up serious face-time hours networking with attorneys. The Employment Insider article notes that almost half of the class of 2013 found jobs through referrals or self-initiated contact with potential employers. In particular, among those who got hired by a public defender's office, 30% initiated contact themselves. And among those grads seeking jobs with small firms having less than 10 lawyers, more than 30% also found jobs through self-initiated contact. Here's an excerpt:
No job yet? You are not alone — more law graduates are finding jobs on their own, instead of through traditional fall on-campus interviews. In fact, fall on-campus interviewing accounted for only 14.7 percent of all jobs obtained, one of the lowest figures since NALP started tracking the figure 20 years ago. Why the dip?
“The short, simple answer is Big Law is hiring fewer summer associates,” NALP’s Executive Director James Leipold said.
Instead, most 2013 graduates obtained jobs through referrals, 19.5 percent, or self-initiated contact, 18.8 percent.
Lydia Russo, assistant dean for the Center of Development & Career Strategy at Emory University School of Law, is well aware of these changes and has ramped up recruitment efforts. As a result, jobs obtained from fall on-campus interviewing have increased modestly at her school.
“It’s not a huge increase but it is in the positive direction,” Russo said. “We have been extremely aggressive with employer outreach in cities where our students have interest. A little over half of our graduates find jobs through school-facilitated means and a little less than half find jobs through relationships, some form of networking or referrals.”
. . . .
Continue reading here.
This is a sad story. Many of us in the Legal Writing community feel a connection to the school where the late Tom Blackwell taught. From Inside Higher Ed:
Appalachian School of Law, in the coalfields town of Grundy, Va., is struggling as much as any law school amid a plunge in applicants.
Last year, the stand-alone law school had an entering class of 48 students, down from 146 students in 2011. There has also been an exodus of professors and, as of now, there are at most eight professors on staff -- some say fewer -- to teach next fall.
Alumni and others close to the school now worry about its future and accuse a powerful board member of obstructing efforts to save it. These advocates believe the only way to save their school is to move it out of Grundy, a town of just over 1,000 residents. The exit of the law school might really hurt the town.
In the meantime, there is some worry about the quality of the school, which accepts students with some of the lowest LSAT scores in the country.
You can read more here.
Dean Luke Bierman has written 4 Steps for Reinventing Legal Education for the ABA Journal Website. He has declared:
"The longer we drag our feet, the greater the gap between the skills that are needed now in new attorneys and the training that traditional law schools provide them. This chasm undermines the credibility of our nation’s law schools, and threatens to waste an entire generation of promising legal talent. Legal education hasn’t changed much in a century – reinvention is long past due."
His 4 steps comprise
1. "[W]e need a redesigned curriculum that is rigorous and highly focused on the realities of being a lawyer today and tomorrow, not yesterday – we can’t focus only on fixing what we didn’t like about our legal education. We must do better in the classroom to actively engage students in developing the core legal knowledge, skills and competencies they need for the workplace. Beyond foundational law courses, students need more and better training in writing, business skills, project management, technology, data analytics, leadership development, and communication."
2. "[A]n intense focus on experiential learning. It’s not enough to cram an abbreviated clerkship or internship into the summer months or as a component of a busy semester and pretend that is enough. Instead, we need full-time, course-connected legal residencies to become a staple of the law school experience. We need to require hands-on learning through partnerships with law firms, judges, nonprofits and government agencies – where students can learn by doing in immersive and iterative programs. We also need students to test themselves in simulations led by practicing attorneys and take part in greater numbers in clinics, trial advocacy, moot court, and mock trial programs. The experiential dimensions of legal education should be integrated and strategically sequenced with rigorous courses from day one to graduation, providing students with increasing levels of responsibility for real legal work at each stage of their development."
3. "[W]e need more involvement from practicing attorneys and judges. These experts are essential to one of the key components of a successful law school experience – the development of extensive personal and professional networks."
4. "[W]ith the average debt of private law school graduates reaching nearly $125,000, the fourth critical element to an overhaul is cost – we must make law school more affordable. . . . If we are really serious about the long term best interests of students, and thus their future clients, we need to lower the tuition and guarantee that it will not increase for the entire course of study. One way to do that is to realign the curriculum so that all students can accelerate their studies and graduate in less than the typical three years."
Finally, "The school where I serve as Dean has taken to heart that success is being redefined by transformation around us. Elon Law has adopted a new curriculum that addresses each and every one of the elements discussed above, and the faculty worked hard to adopt these changes in less than six months." (see here)
Dean Bierman has not overstated the urgency of the problem. A report on Bloomberg, has concluded that "the smartest people are opting out of law school" and that "less-qualified students are filling their spots." Law schools need to adopt the changes Dean Bierman proposed in his article and the more detailed changes I have proposed here.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
This article from the Los Angeles Loyolan details how one law school is responding to the sharp drop in applicants including receipt of a $20 million payout from its parent university, a plan to decrease total enrollment by 25% in the next two years and a gradual "reduction" in faculty and staff to better match the school's smaller class size. The article doesn't say whether the reduction will be voluntary or not though it does explain the $20 million, to be paid out in increments, will be used at least in part to fund the scholarships needed to attract high quality students. From the Loyolan:
Law school enrollment has seen a dramatic decline in the last five years.
Since hitting its peak of 52,488 in 2010, enrollment at U.S. law schools has steadily fallen, plummeting to 37,924 this year, according to the American Bar Association. Law schools around the country have adopted various strategies in order to deal with this 27.7 percent decrease.
Loyola Law School (LLS) has seized this opportunity to restructure and intentionally get smaller. LMU has also approved an approximately $20 million special payout from the University’s endowment towards student scholarships at the law school.
Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Thomas O. Fleming, Jr. explained, “The special payout follows a definite plan. It’s not just ‘take $20 million and divide it by five.’ It’s an incremental thing, and it’s reviewed each year as part of the budget process. So while a payout has been approved for next fiscal year, the finance committee will be kept fully informed, and we won’t do the payout until toward the end of the fiscal year.”
Fleming also noted that, when thinking about how to deal with the situation of falling applications to the law school, it was clear that they “didn’t want to disadvantage the undergraduate education. I know that some universities are basically asking their undergraduate tuitions to take care of their funding levels as they re-size their law schools.”
LLS Dean Victor Gold stressed the specific value of funding student scholarships. “Because the applicant pool nationally has declined, there are two strategies you employ to keep the quality of your students high. One is to cut enrollment, so you don’t have as many students. The other is offer really good scholarships. It’s a very competitive market because every good law school is doing the same thing,” he said.
Gold also noted, “The other part to scholarships is mission,” and pointed to the specific scholarships LLS offers to those with a demonstrated interest in public interest law, as well as those from less represented ethnic groups.
In addition to the focus on scholarships, Gold explained, “Like most good law schools, we’re responding by getting smaller. We are reducing enrollment, and have been for a number of years, but the target which we’ll hit in about two years is a total enrollment cut of about 25 percent.”
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Overdue books are nothing new. Even President Washington was guilty. From The Week (2010), here is the beginning of the story.
Oct. 5, 1789: Five months after George Washington takes the oath of office at Federal Hall on Wall Street, the new president checks out two books from the New York Society Library. The library was located in the same building as the president's office, in what was then the nation's capital. In a ledger, next to the names of the books — The Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel and Vol. 12 of the Commons Debates, containing transcripts from Britain's House of Commons — the librarian writes, "President."
Nov. 2, 1789: The books are due. No sign of Washington. Fines begin accruing.
And here is the end of the story:
May 20, 2010: Mount Vernon staff returns a copy of The Law of Nations to the New York Society Library. After hearing of the missing books, employees at Washington's estate were unable to locate either of them. But they found an identical Law of Nations online for about $12,000. "We express our gratitude for your patience... and for your generosity in erasing the considerable funds that were probably owed by George Washington," James Rees, executive director of Washington's Mount Vernon Estate, told library staff. "He did not do his public duty." Nonetheless, the library has absolved Washington "and his representatives" of all fines.
For the story of the intervening years, please click here.