Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Aaron Caplan on the Science of Learning: Interleaving

Aaron Caplan has an interesting post on the science of learning on the PrawfsBlawg.  In particular, he discusses how interleaving (mixing distinct but related topics in a single learning session) helps students learn better than massed practice (learning everything on a subject at one time).

(Scott Fruehwald)

June 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Recent Dean Appointments

From Syllabus, the newsletter of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar. In these difficult times, these are courageous people.

University of California-Los Angeles School of Law
Jennifer Mnookin
August 1, 2015

University of Chicago Law School
Interim Dean Geoffrey R. Stone
July 1, 2015

DePaul University College of Law
Jennifer Rosato Perea
July 1, 2015

University of Dayton School of Law
Andrew Strauss
Summer 2015

Faulkner University, Thomas Goode Jones School of Law
Charles I. Nelson
June 1, 2015

Florida Coastal School of Law
Interim Dean Mary Margaret Giannini
Spring 2015

University of Florida, Fredric G. Levin College of Law
Laura Rosenbury
July 1, 2015

George Mason University School of Law
Henry Butler
July 1, 2015

Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law
Acting Dean Matthew Lyon
March 2015

University of Mississippi School of Law
Interim Dean Deborah Bell
Spring 2015

University of North Carolina School of Law
Martin Brinkley
July 1, 2015

Northern Illinois University College of Law
Interim Dean Mark Cordes
July 1, 2015

Regent University School of Law
Michael Hernandez
May 2015

Seton Hall University School of Law
Kathleen Boozang
July 1, 2015

Suffolk University Law School
Andrew Perlman
August 1, 2015

Washington and Lee University School of Law
Brant Hellwig
July 1, 2015

Widener University Delaware Law School
Rodney Smolla
July 1, 2015

Widener University Commonwealth Law School
Christian A. Johnson
July 1, 2015

Wyoming University College of Law
Klint Alexander
July 1, 2015

Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
Melanie Leslie
July 1, 2015


June 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quote of the Week

“It is clear that a successful pedagogy that can serve as a basis for the enhancement of thinking will have to incorporate ideas about the way in which learners organize knowledge and internally represent it and the way these representations change and resist change when new information is encountered.  Despite all of the gains that cognitive psychologists have made in understanding what happens when people learn, most teachers do not apply their knowledge of cognitive psychology.”  Diane F. Halpern, Teaching Critical Thinking for Transfer across Domains: Dispositions, Skills, Structure Training, and Metacognitive Monitoring, 53 Am. Psych. 449, 451 (1998).

(Scott Fruehwald)

June 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Addressing the decline in critical thinking skills among new law school matriculants

This is a new article by Professor Rebecca C. Flanagan (UMass) entitled The Kids Aren't Alright: Rethinking the Law Student Skills Deficit and available at 2015 BYU Educ. & L.J. 135 and here on SSRN. From the abstract:

This article explores the decline of fundamental thinking skills in pre-law students and the challenges facing law schools admitting underprepared students during a time of constrained budgets and declining enrollment. A growing body of empirical research demonstrates a marked decline in the critical thinking and reasoning skills among college graduates. The causes for the decline are interconnected with other problematic changes on undergraduate campuses: 1) a dramatic decrease in student study time since 1960, examining research which suggests that undergraduate students spent 1/3 less time studying in 2003 than they did in 1961; 2) a consumerist orientation among college students, resulting in a diminished focus on learning; 3) grade inflation at undergraduate campuses, resulting in grade compression and an inability to distinguish between exceptional and ordinary students 4) a decline in undergraduate students choosing to major in liberal arts that provide the foundation for early success in law school. Declines in study time, grade inflation, and changing patterns in student class choice have created an undergraduate learning environment that is less rigorous than undergraduate education fifty years ago. 

This article challenges law schools to examine the adequacy of traditional support programs when incoming classes require systemic and sustained academic assistance. Law schools have traditionally helped academically underprepared through academic support programs, however, traditional ASPs are not equipped to provide broad-based and comprehensive assistance to large numbers of law students. Law student underpreparedness is a “wicked problem,” so complex that singular solutions are impossible. Law schools admitting substantial numbers of students with lower-levels of academic preparedness need to ask themselves questions to determine how to best address these challenges. The broader legal community should reflect on these questions because the answers will require all stakeholders to invest in changes to undergraduate education as well as legal training.


June 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Students Taking “J.D. Advantage” Jobs

A significant number of our students are taking these jobs. Here is the ABA definition of “J.D. advantage positions”:

A position in this category is one for which the employer sought an individual with a J.D., and perhaps even required a J.D., or for which the J.D. provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but which does not itself require bar passage or an active law license or involve practicing law. Examples of positions for which a J.D. is an advantage include a corporate contracts administrator, alternative dispute resolution specialist, government regulatory analyst, FBI agent, and accountant.

Among 2014 grads, 14.5% (6,360 grads) took J.D. advantage positions. The question: are we (or should we) do anything different to prepare students for these positions?

You can find the ABA statistics here.


June 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

USNWR story on law schools offering master of law degrees

More law schools are now offering these programs that target professionals who hope for a career boost by learning about the law but who aren't inclined to make the full investment in a JD.  Here's an excerpt from USNWR's report:

Sharpen Law Skills With a Master of Legal Studies

When Chad Beights, a sergeant at the Southern Illinois University—Carbondale police department, wanted to raise his profile at work, as well as broaden his skills, he considered studying criminal justice or public administration. But the school's Master of Legal Studies program offered him something he couldn't refuse: flexibility.


"As an MLS student, you can take whichever classes you want within their guidelines," says Beights, who graduated from the program in May.


Beights is interested in employment law and SIU—Carbondale let him take classes in employment discrimination, labor law and negotiations, as well as courses in criminal law and evidence, which can help him in his current job, he says. He hopes the degree will make him more marketable in the future.


[Ask these four questions to decide if you should go to law school.]


"I wanted something to fall back onto and the ability to have another career," says Beights, who hopes the degree will position him to one day work in an administrative role in law enforcement.


Master of Legal Studies programs are an option for learning about the law without getting a J.D. and can increase job opportunities for those working in law-related careers.


These programs, and Master of Studies in Law programs, often take one year to complete if students attend full-time, and let students sit side-by-side with future attorneys while learning about the law. Many schools approved by ​the American Bar Association offer them.


The curriculum for both is ​similar to the curriculum for J.D. programs, but there's one catch for MSL or MLS graduates: "They cannot practice law," says Gordon Silverstein, assistant dean for graduate programs at Yale Law School, which offers an MSL.


Graduates can't represent someone in court or do anything that requires a law license. They can, however, work in jobs that overlap with law.


Anyone considering these programs should think about the kind of job they'd like to have,​ as well as how much time and money they can put toward a graduate degree, experts say.


Some students who come through the program at SIU—Carbondale have a background in health care​ and plan to use this degree to become hospital administrators​, says Michael Ruiz, assistant dean for career services and special programs at SIU—Carbondale's law school. Others might work in state or local government, or law enforcement, he says.

. . . . 

Continue reading here.


June 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Face It, Your Brain Is A Computer

I have often stressed that it is important to understand how the brain works in order to develop the best techniques for teaching and learning.  Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology and neural science at New York University, has an interesting piece in the New York Times comparing the brain to a computer.

Professor Marcus writes, "There is much that we don’t know about brains. But we do know that they aren’t magical. They are just exceptionally complex arrangements of matter. Airplanes may not fly like birds, but they are subject to the same forces of lift and drag. Likewise, there is no reason to think that brains are exempt from the laws of computation. If the heart is a biological pump, and the nose is a biological filter, the brain is a biological computer, a machine for processing information in lawful, systematic ways."

As Professor Marcus notes, the analogy between the brain and a computer is not perfect.  However, thinking of the brain in this way gives us a much better idea of how the brain works than scientists had at the time Langdell developed his approach to legal education.  Considering that cognitive psychology has advanced so much since Langdell's time, why are so many in legal education still rejecting advances in learning theory?  It is a disservice to law students that much of legal education is still in the horse and buggy stage.

(Scott Fruehwald)

June 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Realistic Summer Writing Schedule

Here is some advice from an article byTheresa MacPhail:  

Here is a short excerpt:

You’re better off scheduling your writing in blocks of two to four hours, with regular breaks. For the summer months, I don’t recommend trying to write more than four days a week. We all have families, friends, and lives. You will be more productive during your writing sessions if you’re happy and relaxed instead of stressed out.

Writer, know thyself.

Craft a writing schedule and goals that work for you. That’s tricky because it requires you to really be honest about yourself and what kind of writer you are. Do you tend to be focused for a couple of hours and then do very little at your desk after that? Then schedule writing blocks of one to two hours to accommodate your style. Do you need a deadline in order to work at all? Then set one up with a friend (again, however, be realistic about it).

In figuring out a schedule, your best bet is to be honest about what works for you—for example how many hours are you able to spend each day, how much text can you produce in a day, how will you make up for lost time when you fall behind, do you tend to do too much research in order to avoid writing?


June 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The untimely death of the academic law library has been greatly exaggerated.

Thanks to Professor Kenneth J. Hirsh (Cincinnati) for letting us know about his published response to Professor Milles' article that we blogged about yesterday.  In contrast to that piece, Professor Hirsh argues, to borrow a Twainism, that reports about the death of  the academic law library have been greatly exaggerated. In the interest of presenting a balanced picture, below is the abstract from Professor Hirsh's article which is available at 106 Law Libr. J. 521- (2014) though he recommends you download an updated copy from SSRN here which corrects a small publishing error.

At the 2013 CALI Conference on Law School Computing, Professor James Milles, professor and former library director of the SUNY Buffalo Law School, presented his draft paper positing that academic law libraries are doomed. The author presented his contrasting viewpoints in the same session. This paper is based on his presentation and has been updated to account for adoption of the revised law school accreditation standards approved by the ABA Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in 2014. While the author agrees with the underlying observations set out by Professor Milles, he envisions a scenario where law libraries, and more importantly librarians, remain an essential part of law school life.


June 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Former Student at North Dakota Law Sues Administrators and Employees

From the Forum News Service:

A former University of North Dakota student is suing the school, university president and four law school employees,.

Garet Bradford, 46, claims he wasn't granted due process, was discriminated against because of his age and had his freedom of speech restricted before being dismissed from the law school in May.

The complaint was originally filed by Bradford about a week after his May 13 dismissal from the school via email. It states he was summoned near the beginning of his second semester at the law school because there had been issues with his application that had been accepted about eight months prior.

The complaint states Bradford attempted to resolve issues with law school professors and administrators, including Dean Kathryn Rand, Assistant Dean Bradley Parrish, professor Steven Morrison and UND President Robert Kelley, but was repeatedly misinformed or denied information.

Bradford filed an amended complaint June 9, adding the fifth law school employee to the suit, professor James Grijalva. The complaint states Bradford appealed a quiz grade from Grijalva in February before his application was called into question and was told his tone was negative and he lacked character.

You can read more here.


June 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Will libraries be the first casualty of the law school crisis?

This "new" article by Professor James G. Milles (SUNY-Buffalo) entitled Legal Education in Crisis, and Why Law Libraries Are Doomed argues that as the budget crisis facing most law schools worsens, law libraries will be the first casualty of war given that the ABA has already indicated a willingness to loosen accreditation standards when it comes to the resources allocated to them. Though this article was posted to SSRN back in 2013 (here) it just came through my news feed as newly published - now available at 106 Law Libr. J. 507 (2014) - so I figured I'd post it for those who are interested in the topic but haven't yet seen it. The "Yirka Question" mentioned in the abstract below is a reference to this article. Here's the full abstract from Professor Milles article:

The dual crises facing legal education - the economic crisis affecting both the job market and the pool of law school applicants, and the crisis of confidence in the ability of law schools and the ABA accreditation process to meet the needs of lawyers or society at large - have undermined the case for not only the autonomy, but the very existence, of law school libraries as we have known them. Legal education in the United States is about to undergo a long-term contraction, and law libraries will be among the first to go. A few law schools may abandon the traditional law library completely. Some law schools will see their libraries whittled away bit by bit as they attempt to answer “the Yirka Question” in the face of shrinking resources, reexamined priorities, and university centralization. What choices individual schools make will largely be driven by how they play the status game.


June 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Managing Disruptive Library Patrons

Here is an detailed article offering suggestions on dealing with this problem in both academic and public libraries: Nicole P. Dyszlewski, Kristen R. Moore & Genevieve Blake Tung, Managing Disruptive Patron Behavior in Law Libraries: A Grey Paper. One section of the article suggests ways to interact with these patrons. Here is a summary: 

● Address problematic patron behavior early, before it escalates.

● Make sure that patrons who face losing some or all of their library privileges due

to behavior problems have some avenue for internal appeal and review. This

could mean involving the library’s governing board, a library committee, or


● Keep contact information for local free and low-cost local legal services

providers available at all public-services desks and in printed hand-outs for


● Libraries that serve homeless or economically marginalized patrons may also

wish to keep current lists of local social service providers, such as food pantries.

a list of local organizations that provide a place to take a shower and other

social services.

● Make sure that patrons feel heard when they voice a complaint.

● Communicate clearly and reinforce positive take-aways from challenging

situations. As one county law librarian responded in the survey, “If I have to ask

someone to leave because they’re disruptive to other patrons I explain to them

why they need to leave, but also that they are welcome to use the library

another day when they are less agitated. This usually works.”

● In an academic library, use student orientation sessions as an opportunity to

open channels of communication, including how to engage staff to solve


● Consider posting anonymous patron complaints, and the library’s response, in a

public place or online.

● Small amenities can build goodwill and prevent conflict.

○ For example, if some of your library’s reading areas are within easy

earshot of group study areas, the reference or circulation desk, or close

to the exit, consider lending noise-cancelling headphones and offering

patrons individually wrapped earplugs.

○ If your patrons include students or attorneys who perennially leave their

laptops unattended at their desks, consider lending laptop locks.

● Be alert and aware, but take pains not to assume that a particular patron

encounter will end poorly from the start.

● Consistency and equal treatment go hand-in-hand. Although a law library may

prioritize services for its primary patron groups, consistent with its mission), all

patrons who are permitted to use the space are entitled to be treated equally

with respect to conduct rules.


June 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Deborah Jo Merritt on the Limitations of the "Appellate Classroom" and the Importance of Experiential Education

As I have often stated on this blog, experiential education helps doctrinal learning because it is active learning that reinforces long-term memory and the ability to use knowledge.  Professor Deborah Jo Merritt has recently pointed out the limits of traditional law teaching in the "Appellate Classroom" and emphasized the need to combine the traditional approach with experiential teaching.

The Law School Cafe: The Appellate Classroom

Professor Merritt points out the limitations of the traditional approach: "Our doctrinal courses thus give students repeated practice for appellate lawyering. Their raw materials are appellate cases, and classroom discussion resembles oral argument. The legal reasoning conducted in doctrinal classes consists of reconciling precedents and applying them to new fact patterns."

She asserts that "It’s essential to recognize these facts about doctrinal classes as law schools embrace more experiential types of learning. Many types of experiential learning aid doctrinal understanding; I use simulations and other exercises in my Evidence course for just that purpose."

She goes further: "Most of these exercises, however, do not redress the appellate tilt in our classrooms. We need much more fundamental shifts in doctrinal courses to accomplish that. Alternatively, we need to expand the time devoted to simulations and clinics that focus on lawyering outside the appellate practice."

She concludes, "Very few law school graduates find work as appellate lawyers. Most clients need other types of assistance. In order to serve both those students and their clients, legal educators need to reduce the dominance of appellate lawyering in our curriculum. How do lawyers use doctrine and interact with client[s] outside of that setting? That question lies at the root of constructive pedagogic change."

(Scott Fruehwald)

June 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pope Francis' Encyclical on the Environment

Here are excerpts from Pope Francis' recent encyclical. As a wordsmith and as one who has struggled with the turgid prose of prior pontiffs, I appreciate his eloquence and creative thought as well as the skill of his English translator:

Referring to his namesake, Francis of Assisi, he writes of the need for a direct, personal, _feeling_ relation with the world, what Buber would call "I-Thou":

"... if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled."

And in the first chapter, he continues this theme of bringing the reality of the current situation into our hearts, the only place where it can really lead to action:

"Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it."


June 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Solo and Small Practice Curriculum at Touro Law Center

Designing a Solo and Small Practice Curriculum by Meredith R. Miller.


"There is a reality commonly ignored by the curriculum in most law schools: the largest segment of law graduates will eventually be solo or small firm practitioners. Even before the Great Recession, nearly two thirds of lawyers in the United States practiced in solo or small firms. Since 2008, trends show an increase in the number of recent law graduates that “hang a shingle.” According to a 2012 report of the American Bar Association, about three-quarters of lawyers in the United States work in private practice. Of those attorneys, about seventy percent are in solo or small firms. Many find themselves in this practice setting soon after graduation. The National Association for Law Placement (“NALP”) statistics for the class of 2013 show that 42% of graduates in private practice are working in firms with 2-10 lawyers; about 5% are already operating solo practices.

In short, more than half of the attorneys in the United States are small business owners – they are operating, managing and growing a law practice. As framed by Professor Luz Herrera, they must become “lawyer-entrepreneurs.” However, the law curriculum rarely presents students with opportunities to build the competencies necessary to operate a practice. As William Hornsby, staff counsel at the American Bar Association (“ABA”), has written: “Simply put, law school graduates are ill-prepared for the future they are most likely to pursue.”

A confluence of factors have brought solo and small practice to the forefront, including: the lagging job market for recent law graduates; the contracting of “biglaw” firm practice; the hope that regional and community practices will begin to fill the “justice gap” for low and middle income individuals; the entrepreneurial spirit of recent college graduates (“Millenials”), who long to be free agents and care deeply about their communities and work-life balance; and technological advances that have increased the efficiencies and decreased the overhead of operating a solo or small firm. Add to these factors that substantially decreasing law school enrollments have increased the pressure on law schools to innovate and recognize the realities of modern law practice.

In law schools, from the “MacCrate Report” to the “Carnegie Report” to “Best Practices,” to a number of familiar revisits to the “MacCrate Report,” we have seen over 20 years of debate about the role of “practical skills training” in the law school curriculum. I do not intend to rehash those debates here. To the extent that law schools have introduced more opportunities for practical training, it is a step toward building a solo practice curriculum, but it does not go far enough. There is still a gap between the doctrinal knowledge and practical competencies taught in law school and those necessary to successfully operate a solo practice. While most law schools currently provide thorough instruction in doctrinal law and legal reasoning and some exposure to “skills” training, they do not provide guidance in the “diverse set of business, legal, and interpersonal skills” that operating a law practice requires.

There is a small but growing chorus urging law schools to do more to prepare graduates who will operate their own practices. However, there have not yet been comprehensive or concrete proposals for the law school curriculum. To the extent law schools have responded to this need, they have done so by adding a Practice Management course and/or opening a post-graduate incubator or residency program. The Practice Management course is a key component of designing a solo practice curriculum but its two or three credits are far from a comprehensive exposure to the necessary competencies. Moreover, while post-graduate programs are important steps in assisting attorneys in gaining the competencies to operate their own practices, this education should be more widely available to all students and it should begin before graduation. The post-graduate programs should inform and supplement the curriculum but they cannot be the only answer to the disconnect between the curriculum and the way that law is actually practiced by such a great number of graduates.

It is the responsibility of law schools – especially those with a regional focus – to offer a suite of courses designed to position students to manage and operate their own practices. Borrowing from my experience designing a solo practice curriculum at the Touro Law Center, this Article provides the contours of a suite of curricular offerings for those students who have an interest in operating their own practices. At Touro, we have created a Solo & Small Practice Concentration (the “Concentration”). While still a work in progress, the core courses that make up the Concentration are consciously intended to build the business and interpersonal skills necessary to operate a solo practice. Students who opt to declare the Concentration and complete all of its requirements receive a notation on their transcript.

This Article begins by detailing the nature and goals of the core courses that we have identified as making up a solo and small practice curriculum. After describing the courses and their educational objectives, the Article identifies some of the hurdles in building the curriculum. It also identifies potential synergies between the curriculum and post-graduate programs. Finally, the Article concludes by briefly placing the solo and small practice curriculum within the current context: in light of a shifting legal landscape, law schools must recalibrate to better prepare graduates for the actual challenges of the legal market."

June 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Vault's 2016 "Top 100" law firm rankings

The Vault has released its annual list of the top 100 law firms based on a survey of more than 17,000 associates who were asked to rank firms based on "prestige" (read about the Vault's methodology here). This year's survey results rated Wachtell, Lipton as Vault's "top" firm for the 13th year in a row.  According to the press release below, Cravath trailed by a small margin.

Vault’s Law 100 Rankings for 2016 are here, and it’s clear which firms have a good thing going. Cooley is now a Top 40 Vault firm after joining the Top 50 for the first time last year. Boies, Schiller & Flexner, another rising star, is now at No. 12 and could very well be in the Top 10 by next year. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz tops the list at No. 1 for the 13th year in a row, while Cravath, Swaine & Moore again trails by a small margin.


The Vault Law 100 list is based on scores from more than 17,000 law firm associates, who were asked to rate law firms on a scale of 1 to 10 based on prestige. Survey respondents were not allowed to rate their own firms and were asked to only rate firms with which they were familiar.


Wachtell—described by survey respondents as “unparalleled” and the “New York prestige standard-setter”—continues its reign as No. 1. The “extremely sophisticated” Cravath, known for “the best deals on Wall Street,” falls closely behind at No. 2. Although the familiar players compose the Top 10, there were some shifts: Kirkland & Ellis jumped up two spots, to No. 7, bumping Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Weil Gotshal & Manges down one spot each, to Nos. 8 and 9, respectively.  Latham & Watkins holds steady to its No. 10 rank. And yet again, Boies Schiller threatens to break into the upper echelons; after bursting into the Top 20 just three years ago, the “elite litigation shop” known for its “outrageous compensation” beat Covington & Burling for the No. 12 slot by just 0.054 points.


“We can really see which changes in the market made an impression on associates this year,” stated Nicole Weber, Vault’s Law Editor. “Tech is booming right now, and the Silicon Valley firms keep climbing the ranks of the Top 100. It’s no coincidence that Cooley and Fenwick & West both scored higher in Vault’s survey this year while also posting the biggest revenue gains in the AmLaw 100.”


Silicon Valley Firms Keep Rising


Cooley’s ascension continues this year with a seven-point jump to the No. 38 spot. Last year it climbed 10 spots, more than any other firm in the 2015 rankings, to land in the Top 50 for the first time. Attorneys at peer firms had no shortage of great things to say about this 850-lawyer firm, describing it as a “top firm for startups” that is “great at IP” and “gets all the deals.”  Fenwick & West, another Bay Area player, climbed six spots to snatch the No. 75 slot from McGuireWoods. Fenwick attorneys are known as “the cool kids in Silicon Valley,” who are “entrepreneurial” and worked on the “Facebook IPO” in 2012.  


Morgan Lewis Absorption of Bingham McCutchen Attorneys Pays Off


After spending the past two years at No. 50, Morgan Lewis is now seated comfortably inside the Top 50—it jumped up six places and is now ranked No. 44. The Philadelphia-based firm made headlines in late 2014 when it absorbed 750 lawyers and staff from Bingham McCutchen and increased its attorney headcount to nearly 2,000, up from 1,375. Vault’s survey respondents described Morgan Lewis as an “employment law powerhouse” with a “top tax group,” and the praise is sure to continue as the firm expands its reach across new regions and practice areas following the Bingham additions.


Mergers Shake Things Up in the Vault 100


In addition to Morgan Lewis, Cooley and Fenwick, five other firms in the Top 100 moved up at least five spots this year—Norton Rose Fulbright (No. 72), Dentons (No. 80), Pepper Hamilton (No. 90), Manatt, Phelps & Phillips (No. 91) and Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler (No. 95). Norton Rose Fulbright saw the biggest gain of any firm this year, bouncing back 15 places after last year’s 39-place drop following the merger of Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski.


“Some big changes in our 2016 rankings reflect the flurry of law firm merger activity over the past several years,” noted Weber. “A big merger, especially one that involves a name change or major rebrand, may result in a lower prestige score at first, but we tend to see firms climb back steadily in the years following.” Dentons’ nine-spot hike this year represents a recovery following the 2010 merger of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and Denton Wilde Sapte (the merged firm spent two years off the Top 100 list, came back in 2014 and has been inching up ever since). Squire Patton Boggs, a product of a major 2014 merger, landed at No. 82 this year: 11 places lower than legacy firm Patton Boggs, but 13 places higher than legacy firm Squire Sanders.


Other Notes from the Vault Law 100


Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton is back in the Top 100 after a three-year hiatus, yet another move that reflects a comeback from a past merger (Kilpatrick Stockton merged with Townsend and Townsend and Crew in 2011). Troutman Sanders made it back into the Top 100 as well, at the No. 99 spot, after a brief absence in the 2015 rankings. Two firms fell out of the Top 100 this year: Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.


View the entire Top 100 Law Firm Rankings.


June 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas Confederate License Plate Case: Excerpts

If you want to get to the heart of the opinions, but lack the interest or time to dig in to the complete opinions, the Wall Street Journal blog provides key excerpts from Justice Breyer’s majority opinion and Justice Alito’s dissent.

Here is the full slip opinion in Walker v. Texas Division v. Sons of Confederate Veterans.


June 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another Critique of the Langdellian Approach to Legal Education

A few years ago Richard Neumann and Benjamin Spencer wrote devastating critiques of the Langdellian approach to legal education.  Jeremiah A. Ho has written a new critique of the Langdellian method.

Function, Form, and Strawberries: Subverting Langdell


"So why do law schools place skills instruction below the dissemination of legal knowledge even though it is the practice of law that lawyers are engaged in doing and not just the mere knowing of it? Both should be equally significant. Although law teaching methodologies have shifted somewhat to accommodate the changing cognitive adaptations of the human mind in this age of digital technology, law instruction in classrooms still possess a deeply-rooted basis in legal formalist considerations of the law from the 19th century that displaces skills instruction for the advancement of the legal knowledge. Consequently, in order to further the image of the 'Learned Profession' of lawyering, law schools have perpetuated a difficult dichotomy between knowledge and practice. As we move to identify the New Normal in legal education during this current crisis, that dichotomy plays a part in how we need to recalibrate law teaching in order to instill competency rather than propagating a formalist concept of legal education that isolates and depoliticizes law from practice.

This Article, Function, Form, and Strawberries: Subverting Langdell, attempts to bring both the teaching of practice and knowledge on equal footing with each other to avoid student misconceptions of hierarchy that harbor larger professionalism issues. It offers a method for law teachers to incorporate skills teaching actively in the classroom in a way that legitimizes legal reasoning skills on par with the instruction of legal knowledge. In this way, the Article proposes a new normative in the 'New Normal' of legal education: that there should be a continuous engagement with active learning that integrates skills into the doctrinal classroom in a seamless way. The law is a discipline that is brought to life by us and our students very much in part through its practice. We cannot ignore that aspect of this field, nor afford to do so."

June 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Northwestern law school graduates inaugural class in masters of science law program

The one year masters degree program launched last fall and is aimed at students with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds who'd like to some exposure to the law to advance in their careers but are not interested in obtaining a JD.  According to the Legaltech News story below, Northwestern just graduated its inaugural class of 30 students and expects to enroll as many as 50 this coming fall.  I can't say whether this was Northwestern's motivation but certainly many law schools these days are looking for new markets and creative ways to market their educational product. No doubt will see a lot more of these masters of law programs spring up in the next couple of years. More details about Northwestern's program from Legaltech News:

Northwestern Law Rolls Out Program for STEM Students: The university’s masters of science in law degree is one-year program for students with STEM backgrounds.


A new program offered by Northwestern University—designed to bridge the gap between law, business and technology—just graduated its first class from the law school and a larger class will be starting the program in the fall semester.


The university’s masters of science in law degree is one-year program for students with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds. It had 30 students enrolled in 2014-15 and that number is expected to be about 45 or 50 students in 2015-16.


It provides a focus on STEM and lets students learn about law and business as they develop into multi-disciplinary professionals without attending a JD or MBA program, which are longer programs and have different goals. For instance, JD programs often prepare students to practice law. Students at the MSL program do not want to practice, but have personal goals that often relate to current demand in the marketplace.


The students do not attend JD classes, but have their own required courses and electives tailored for the students’ particular interests. Among the required classes are such topics as fundamentals of intellectual property, topics in contract law, liability, risk insurance, ethics, writing and the legal regulatory process. Electives touch on such fields as IP and patent design, business and entrepreneurship, and regulatory strategy.

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Continue reading here.


June 23, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Banning Smartwatches to Stop Exam Cheating

From Observer/Innovation:

The technology to stop students from cheating on tests continues to grow more advanced worldwide. It all started last year, when educators in China uncovered a slew of innovative and illicit cheating devices, including glasses equipped with hidden cameras and a wired-up shirt. To combat this, the Chinese government used an anti-cheating drone to monitor students during this year’s college entrance exam.

An even newer area of concern is smartwatches. Multiple universities and test centers around the world have begun banning Apple Watches and their ilk as a precaution during final exams and standardized tests. One ground zero in the classroom smartwatch battle is Australia— according to Mashable, several universities in the land Down Under have imposed strict smartwatch regulations.

You can read more here. The Educational Testing Service already bans digital and smartwatches from testing areas. I don’t know if law schools are following this example.


June 23, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)