Sunday, May 31, 2015
It is the time of year to order textbooks for fall classes. I would like to recommend that law professors order texts with problem-solving and skills exercises. Such books make it easy to incorporate new learning techniques into classes without a lot of work.
I think that the best series containing problem-solving and skills exercises is the Context and Practice series from Carolina Academic Press. The books in this series are casebooks combined with many practical exercises.
"The books in this series:
- Provide resources, such as multiple-choice question banks and essays with answers, designed to make it easier for professors to provide students opportunities for practice and feedback;
- Focus on problem-solving in simulated law practice contexts across a wide range of practices, including both advocacy and transactional practices;
- Include teachers’ manuals that make it easy to use multiple methods of instruction and to emphasize active learning;
- Guide students’ development of self-directed learning strategies;
- Incorporate learning objectives and doctrinal overviews and situate topics in the law practice contexts in which they arise;
- Include questions that prompt readers to question, reflect, and analyze as they read;
- Provide exercises that require students to reflect on the roles of lawyers and their own professional development;
- Integrate self-regulated learning skills and exercises; and
- Help students to discover links between what they are learning and real life."
Also useful is the Skills & Values Series from Lexis/Nexis. The books in this series are supplements to traditional casebooks that contain numerous extended exercises.
"The Skills & Values Series is comprised of subject-specific practice-oriented books (the print component) supported by LexisNexis Web Courses (the online component). The Web Courses are powered by Blackboard, so is a familiar environment to many law professors, and easy to learn for those not familiar. The S&V Series is designed to provide a tool for teaching practice skills so that graduates of our law schools are competent to serve their clients skillfully and in an ethical manner."
Another excellent text that combines cases with skills is Contracts, an Electronic Text: Cases, Text, and Problems by Charles Calleros & Stephen Gerst, which is an open source casebook. Because it is an ebook, it only costs students $20.
Finally, I have written an introduction to legal reasoning book with numerous exercises, Think Like a Lawyer: Legal Reasoning for Law Students and Business Professionals (ABA Pub. 2013).
From the Dealpolitik column at the Wall Street Journal Blog:
It’s summer associate season, when promising second-year students head to prestigious law firms for what’s essentially a combined tryout and marathon recruiting event for a permanent position after graduation. It’s the first professional job for many law students in the top echelon, and, if we’re being honest, brilliant lawyers don’t always have the most common sense. In my years as a big-firm partner, I saw many enthusiastic summer associates quickly mark themselves as future stars, while others took a bit longer to develop. Some crash and burn in just a few weeks. Here are a few tips I suggest you consider if you are starting your career by going down this path.
- It’s all about work.
- Performance matters.
- Make yourself useful.
Continue reading here.
From the Loyola-Chicago news release:
Jarrett Adams was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault at age 17 and sentence to 28 years in a maximum security prison. After serving nearly ten years, Jarrett was exonerated with the assistance of the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Upon his release, Jarrett attended junior college and then enrolled in Roosevelt University, where he graduated with highest honors. While in school, Jarrett began working full-time as an investigator with the Federal Defender Program for the Northern District of Illinois, where he continues to assist in the representation of indigent defendants facing felony charges.
Jarrett currently lives in Chicago where he attends Loyola University Chicago Law School as a part-time student while continuing to work for the Federal Defender Program. Jarrett recently received the 2012 Chicago Bar Foundation’s Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Scholarship, which is awarded to one law student attending one of nine Illinois law schools who intends to pursue a career in public interest law. Jarrett plans to dedicate his legal career to advocating for indigent defendants and working to prevent wrongful convictions.
In view of reports that the law school is crumbling before our eyes, Charleston Law School has announced that it is admitting a new first year class. Yet, it continues to lay off faculty:
The school also laid off seven faculty Friday, one of a number of cost-cutting moves that is allowing the school to continue to enroll students, a news release said.
The seven faculty members join 24 staff members and four other faculty members bought out or laid off since May 1, 2014, according to the release.
“It’s been hard to lose these members of our staff and faculty, but it’s been a necessary business move to ensure that the size of the school is appropriate for the number of students we have,” said School of Law spokesman Andy Brack.
You can read more here at the Post & Gazette.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Professor Sherman Clark has published a brief article (here) offering his answer to this question. He justifies legal scholarship on two grounds:
First, at least some scholarship should question, rather than merely accept as given, the aims and priorities of the profession. We should be willing to rethink, rather than merely reflect, current assumptions about what matters — about what is or is not truly useful. Thus some of our work will, by definition, initially strike the profession as useless — at least if we are doing our job.
Second, support for a certain amount of wide-ranging scholarship attracts and helps retain law teachers who are willing and able to do this sort of work — and who are thus able to help future members of the profession develop that same capacity. How we evaluate this latter consideration will depend on our views about who should be teaching law and what we should be teaching. In this way, responding thoughtfully to difficult questions from the profession about the value of our scholarship should prompt reflection not just about the uses of legal research but about the aims of legal education more broadly.
These justifications do not persuade me. As for the first, scholarship that questions assumptions rarely exerts any influence on the nonacademic world or, for that matter, on the academic world. The output of academic pieces is enormous; yet, who reads their pieces and is influenced by them? Very few readers. I don't want to overstate my position, but very few scholarly contributions have any impact.
As for the second, if a goal of academic scholarship is to entice smart lawyers to become law professors and if my assessment of the first argument is correct, is it proper to entice academically-inclined lawyers?
Perhaps I am being too pessimistic. I would be interested in the thoughts of our readers.
Friday, May 29, 2015
We could use an expanded version that would tell us for example, how to pronounce Hertha Sibbach’s name in Sibbach v. Wilson & Co., not to mention names in cases heard by other courts, for example, Mrs. Javins in Javins v. First National Realty Corp.
The latest issue of The Law Teacher is out, and it contains a wonderful article by Hillary Burgess: Synthesized Rules as Class Preparation: Teaching Synthesis Techniques While Ensuring Every Student Is Prepared for Class.
"At both my second and fourth tier schools, I found that many of my first year students spent hours preparing for class but were still under-prepared because they didn’t know what it meant to prepare adequately. These students could become excellent, competent, and responsible attorneys. However, their prior education did not adequately prepare them for law school learning, especially the self-reflective aspects of that new challenge. I wanted to help these students realize their full potential.
Simultaneously, I realized that traditional doctrinal classes do not provide much opportunity to teach and test synthesis."
I agree with Professor Burgess that synthesis is an under-taught skill. Her approach will help students better master a skill that is very important to becoming a lawyer.
P.S. The Law Teacher is a wonderful resource for ideas on teaching. You can find back issues on the ILTL website here.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Many universities strongly encourage students to employ debit cards sponsored by their alma maters. However, the students may not realize that the debit cards are sometimes not a good deal.
From the U.S. PIRG news release
The U.S. Department of Education proposed today (May 15) a rule that protects students from high fees, aggressive marketing, and lack of transparency in financial aid debit accounts that affect over 9 million college students. Students have been pushed into these accounts with biased marketing that is hard to opt out of, and then hit with unusual and unexpected fees, such as per-swipe fees and inactivity fees, which are docked out of their limited financial aid dollars. U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s Higher Education Program Director Christine Lindstrom served on the rule-making panel that led to this draft rule, and made this statement in reaction to the proposal:
“The U.S. Department of Education stood strong against the banks and financial firms that abuse financial aid recipients on campus through unfair campus banking arrangements. Banks do not use these tactics in the banking marketplace off-campus and there should be zero tolerance for these tactics on campus, given students’ financial vulnerability and overall debt burden.”
You can read more here.
This is a "newish" article by Professors Janet Weinstein, Linda Morton, Howard Taras and Vivian Rezniak (all of California Western) and available at 63 J. Legal Educ. 36 (2013). From the introduction:
Despite demand in law firms for first-year associates who can work collaboratively, law schools continue to graduate students who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the concept of working in teams, particularly interdisciplinary teams.
Teamwork concepts are infrequently taught in legal education. In addition, law professors unfamiliar with teamwork theory and practice are unlikely to use teams to engage students in learning.
In our courses, Problem Solving in Healthcare, and Community Organizing and Problem Solving, faculty from the disciplines of medicine or social work join with law professors at the law school to teach teamwork to students from these disciplines. One explicit goal in each course is to increase students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes toward working in teams and with professionals from other disciplines. These courses reflect and support our attempt to change the legal education paradigm of student isolation in hopes of nourishing students’ intrinsic values and healthy attitudes towards group work.
Each year we have analyzed our accomplishments informally and the changes we need to make to achieve our goals. Two years ago, we decided to assess our efforts more formally. We wanted to better determine whether our students believed they were improving in their knowledge of teamwork theory, as well as their skills and attitudes, and, if so, which components of the courses they believed were most effective in accomplishing this improvement.
We began by articulating several assumptions that had guided our teaching:
• Law students have not had much experience with teamwork.
• Students will feel uncomfortable working with members of another profession.
• Students do not particularly enjoy being on a team or sharing a team grade.
• Students do not have experience working with students from other disciplines.
• Students appreciate and learn from our classroom lectures and readings on teamwork but they would prefer more content about the underlying subject area (i.e., health law or community organizing) than teamwork skills training.
• Students most enjoy the teamwork experience because of the enhanced results produced by the team effort.
We were surprised by the results of our assessment, which proved many of our assumptions to be incorrect and gave us additional useful insights.
This paper, which discusses our results as well as new insights, is designed to assist professors who want to enhance students’ learning about teamwork
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
—Hand out evaluation forms when the most irascible student in class is absent.
—Be sure that the only assignment you give right before the evaluation is a low-stakes one. “Have them write an easy paper where they can talk about themselves and their journey in the class,” Ms. Wilson advises. And never give back a graded assignment on evaluation day.
—Don’t leave the classroom while the evaluations are being filled out — even if you’ve been told that you’re supposed to do so. That way one or two unhappy students won’t talk out loud and poison the rest of the class’s opinions.
—Don’t give students too much time at the end of class to fill out the forms. “If they’re in a hurry, they’ll give you all fives unless they’re mad at you,” Ms. Wilson says.
—Oh, and let students hand in papers late, retake exams like it’s the DMV, and complete extra credit, which is almost as valuable as a chocolate-chip cookie. “You can’t make a student too mad at you,” she says. “We all know we can’t afford to uphold grading standards because of the pressure put on us.”
At least these are (hopefully humorously) suggested by some undergraduate profs. Here is a Vitae article summarizing critiques of student evaluations. And here is a posting by Berkeley statistics professor Phil Stark offering empirical analyses debunking the usefulness of these evaluations.
These tips come to us from the BarWrite Blog:
- Mistake Number 1: Rushing through reading the interrogatories [the "call of the question"] and the facts.
- Mistake Number 2: Stating your conclusions without showing your reasoning.
- Mistake Number 3: Doing an issue-spotting demonstration instead of applying the law to solve the client's problem.
- Mistake Number 4: Just reciting the facts of the case.Do NOT just tell the story.
- Mistake Number 5. This is the clincher: Losing track of time.
Read the full details on each of these tips here.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Yesterday, I featured an empirical study by Cheryl B. Preston, Penee W. Stewart, and Louise R. Moulding on incoming law students metacognitive skills. (Teaching 'Thinking Like a Lawyer': Metacognition and Law Students) Today, I will discussion how to develop metacognitive skills in law students.
1. Developing Metacognitive Awareness. The first way to help students adopt metacognitive skills is to make them aware of the importance of metacognition. One way to help students develop their metacognitive awareness is to give them questions that will cause them to focus on their thinking processes. (see 2 below) Another method for students to develop metacognition is for them to put themselves in others’ shoes. They should ask questions like: how would my research professor critique my research strategy? In addition, law students need to understand the true nature of learning. Finally, law professors need to be explicit about developing their students’ learning self-identities.
2. Asking Metacognitive Questions. Professors should ask students metacognitive questions in class. Metacognitive questions help students think about their thinking process. Examples: Do I have control over my learning process?/ Do I set learning goals? Overall? For the semester? For each class? For each study session?/ Am I an engaged learner? Do I understand what being an engaged learner requires? Am I an effortful or lazy learner? Which type of learner usually gets higher grades?/ Do I employ deliberate practice strategies?/ Am I an active or passive learner?/ Do I participate frequently in class?/ Do I reflect on what I have learned?/ What are the strengths and weaknesses of my study techniques? Do I use a variety of study techniques?/ Do I always have clear goals when I tackle a problem?/ Am I aware of the learning techniques I use while studying?/ Do I read my notes the evening after class, or do I wait for right before the exam? Which approach is best for long-term learning? Do I review material every week, or do I wait for right before the exam? Which approach is best for long-term learning? Do I do my outlines gradually over the semester, or do I do them right before the exam? Which approach is better for long-term learning? Do I use graphic organizers (visual aids, such as charts, learning trees, outlines) to organize the materials I have learned in class? Why is it important to use graphic organizers?/ Do I have an effective reading strategy?/ Do I reflect on what I have read?/ Do I test myself (retrieval of knowledge) when I study?/ Do I have a specific reason for using the learning techniques I use while studying?/ Do I know what learning techniques are most effective for a particular task?/ Do I set learning goals for tasks?/ How do I track the progress of my learning?/ Do I make sure I am learning when I am in class? Am I giving the professor my full attention?/ Do I ask myself whether I have accomplished my goals when I finish studying or finish a task?/ How do I deal with failure?
3. Teaching Metacognition in the Classroom. Teachers need to teach metacognitive skills explicitly. When teaching a class, the professor should ask the students probing questions to determine whether they understand the material and to develop their metacognitive and cognitive skills. Law professors should also help their students create connections to ideas because the more connections (pathways) to an idea, the easier it is to recall. Professors should also engender metacognitive cognitive flexibility–the willingness to try different strategies–in their students. Furthermore, using concrete examples in class (elaboration) helps the learning of abstract concepts. In addition, teachers should help students learn domain transfer–employing knowledge or a skill from one domain in another domain (psychology in law, torts in property). Finally, professors should state out loud their thinking process when working sample problems (“modeling of strategies”).
4. Teaching Students How to Use Metacognition While Studying. Law school professors should help students with study strategies. During the semester, law students should spend 1/3rd of their time preparing for class, 1/3rd of their time reflecting on what they learned in class (usually the same day as the class), and 1/3 of their time organizing and synthesizing the materials (say every weekend) Professors should help their students develop reading strategies. Law teachers should also help their students develop “deliberate practice” strategies. Studying for long hours by itself does not create expertise; rather, deliberate practice is required. Teachers should advise their students to self-test while studying because retrieval helps individuals retain ideas in long-term memory better than just studying or rereading. Finally, professors should help students understand the importance of relating new material to material that has already been learned.
5. Teaching Students Metacognition in One-on-One Meetings. One-on-one meetings are an important way to help students improve their metacognitive skills because teachers can better view the student’s metacognitive problems. In conferences, teachers should do many of the things they do in the classroom, such as asking probing questions, modeling of strategies, and scaffolding. Moreover, meetings with students are opportunities to make sure the students truly understand the material and to work on detailed problems. Teachers should also make the students explain the steps in their reasoning process.
6. Using Formative Assessment to Develop Metacognition. Well-designed formative assessments–assessments within the learning (during the semester)–that are related to course goals also aid in learning metacognition. This is because formative assessments force students to think about their thinking.
For more on teaching metacognition, see Teaching Law Students How to Become Metacognitive Thinkers.
Which produces greater learning: reflection on one’s experience or accumulating more experience? According to a Harvard Business School study, reflection wins out:
We find that individuals who are given time to reflect on a task improve their performance at a greater rate than those who are given the same amount of time to practice with the same task. Our results also show that if individuals themselves are given the choice to either reflect or practice, they prefer to allocate their time to gaining more experience with the task – to the detriment of their learning.
You can read more here:
Monday, May 25, 2015
I believe that teaching metacognitive skills to law students is fundamental to legal education reform. (e.g., How to Help Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Succeed in Law School, Teaching Law Students How to Become Metacognitive Thinkers) (Metacognition is thinking about thinking.) Now, three authors have undertaken the first empirical study of law students' metacognitive skills.
Teaching 'Thinking Like a Lawyer': Metacognition and Law Students by Cheryl B. Preston, Penee W. Stewart, and Louise R. Moulding.
From an interdisciplinary perspective, this article considers legal education in light of learning theories. It explains the concept of 'metacognition,' and its role in learning and expert-thinking theory. It then translates this critical component into law and illustrates how specific metacognitive skills relate to the intellectual demands of law school and, especially, of a career in law that will demand life-long learning.
To support our claim that metacognition training is essential for law students, our data shows the flaws in the previous assumption that law students come with excellent metacognitive skills because of their high undergraduate academic achievements. Although further research is necessary, our study provides a significant foundational data point for taking metacognition skills seriously in the re-envisioning of legal pedagogy.
A handful of legal scholars, primarily legal writing teachers, have published limited scholarship on metacognition and methods for training law students in thinking skills. Unfortunately, some of the work in the context of law mischaracterizes and muddles the concept of metacognition. This article provides an evaluation of existing legal scholarship referencing metacognition from the perspective of both law and education theorists. It then poses a framework for further empirical and theoretical work."
At one time, Blockbuster was a huge, successful operation and Netflix was struggling. Blockbuster had the chance to buy Netflix and didn’t. Now, Blockbuster is no more, and Netflix is thriving. At the blog of Inside Higher Education (here), we confront a question that permits an analogy to higher education:
And what if these employees were not those running the place (not the CEO or the CFO etc.), but the most respected employees in the entertainment / media / technology / retail industries who also happened to work at Blockbuster.
These Blockbuster tenured respected industry employees would have had some protections and cover to go against the prevailing Blockbuster organizational structure and conventional wisdom at the time.
Would the tenured Blockbuster employees have spent their organizational capital and job security to argue against the decision of management not to buy Netflix?
Would the tenured Blockbuster employees have entered the marketplace of ideas at the company in order to argue against the prevailing wisdom?
Could tenure have saved Blockbuster?
Be sure to read the comments.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
"Exercising Common Sense, Exorcising Langdell: The Inseparability of Legal Theory, Practice and the Humanities"
A new article by Professor Harold Lloyd (Wake Forest) and available at 49 Wake Forest L. Rev. 1213 (2014) and on SSRN here. From the abstract:
Maintaining that theory without practice is empty and practice without theory is blind, this article explores the impossibility of meaningfully separating legal theory from practice and the implications of this impossibility for legal education. Recognizing that no meaningful distinction can be made between legal theory and practice, this article maintains that there can be no meaningful distinction between “doctrinal” and “non-doctrinal” or “practical skills” courses and faculty. Accordingly, it explores the resulting implications for law school curricula and for faculty hiring standards.
As a part of its exploration of the semantic and practical impossibilities of any real theory-practice divide in legal education, this article also examines modern cognitive theory of embodied meaning, how metaphor and category usage drive embodied meaning, and the resulting inseparability of the humanities from legal education and practice. In light of the foregoing, this article also explores reasons why Langdell’s case method is inefficient, myopic, lifeless, and simply wrong in its general elevation of certain appellate cases over other sources of law.
Among other things, this article proposes: (1) abandoning the case method except in subjects such as constitutional law where cases actually comprise important primary materials, (2) revising course books to incorporate hornbook material and materials from actual law practice, (3) recognizing the importance of substantial practice experience when hiring new faculty, (4) erasing arbitrary lines between “core” and “non-core” faculty, and (5) placing greater emphasis upon the humanities in legal education. This article also predicts that these changes will be mandated from without if not voluntarily adopted from within.
US Attorney Preet Bharara may be famous for prosecuting Wall Street but he is also gaining fame as the hottest law school graduation speaker. According to the Wall Street Journal the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, is now the most sought after law school graduation speaker. In three years, he has spoken at seven law school graduation ceremonies. Some of the top program ceremonies he has spoken at have been at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, Harvard Law School, and Columbia Law School. The other three schools were Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Pace Law School, and Fordham Law School. The latest graduation ceremony that Bharara has addressed was today (May 21) at the New York University School of Law.
You can read more here.
Journalist Martin Snapp is my college classmate. Here is his recent online column (May 14) about Lily, a young woman who overcame enormous odds to go to college and then to law school. To read more about Lily, please click here.
These article lead me to think about our students who come from backgrounds where they received an inadequate education and have not enjoyed the same cultural advantages that many of our students have enjoyed. At my school, most of our students come from comfortable middle class and upper middle class backgrounds. The students who have not enjoyed these privileges need our support and guidance. If they lack the intellectual fire power of someone like Lily, they are in particular need of our support.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
According to a study funded by LexisNexis, hiring partners have these views on new lawyers:
- 96% believe that newly graduated law students lack practical skills related to litigation and transactional practice.
- 66% deem writing and drafting skills highly important with emphasis on motions, briefs and pleadings
- Newer attorneys spend 40% – 60% of their time conducting legal research
- 88% of hiring partners think proficiency using “paid for” research services is highly important
- Students lack advanced legal research skills in the areas of statutory law, regulations, legislation and more…
- The most important transactional skills include business and financial concepts, due diligence, drafting contracts and more…
- A law firms spends approximately $19,000 per year, on average, to train a new associate.
You can read the full study here.