Monday, August 31, 2015

William Mitchell-Hamline law school merger creates opportunity to reinvent law school

The recent merger of the twin cities law schools has resulted in a program that expects to expand next year with a particular focus on teaching students the entrepreneurial skills and multicultural competencies needed to succeed in the new normal. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

After merger, Mitchell|Hamline has a chance to renew legal education


The school is rethinking how it serves a changing profession.


The customary academic cycle continues at William Mitchell College of Law and Hamline University School of Law, both in St. Paul. Fall classes for weekday students began Thursday at both institutions.


But it seems as if everything else is in flux at these schools — and in legal education and legal practice more generally. If American Bar Association accreditors “acquiesce” — the term of art for such matters — the two schools will be one by year’s end. They will become Mitchell|Hamline School of Law, under the leadership of this fall’s new Mitchell president, Mark Gordon, and consolidate operations at Mitchell’s campus at 875 Summit Av.


A merger of two separately accredited law schools is by itself a daunting undertaking, so rare that it may be unique in the U.S., Gordon told the Star Tribune Editorial Board this week. But the merger is but one of a number of changes — some newly contemplated, some already begun — as the school rethinks how it serves a changing profession. “We have a great opportunity to do something that’s never been done before,” Gordon said.


It’s an opportunity that has arisen from distress. While Hamline, the smallest of four Twin Cities law schools, and Mitchell, the second-largest, talked about a combination off and on for 15 years, it took the enrollment dip of the past five years to get them together. Hamline’s law school enrollment shrank by a third in the last five years, to 439 students in 2013-14. Mitchell experienced a 17 percent drop in the same period, to 809 students.

. . . . 

Continue reading here.


August 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Hidden Treasures of Professors That We Should Share

My Yale professor, Rollin “Rolly” Osterweis built a collection of books by and about Washington Irving (here).  I just came across this, and it was a surprise. He was known as a scholar of the Old South and also of New Haven. (Please see the bio in this website.) 

 I wonder how many experiences and talents we have that we, unfortunately, fail to share with our students. 

I took his course in The History and Practice of American Oratory, as did John Kerry, the younger Bush, and probably my classmate, George Pataki, and William F. Buckley, Jr., and many others. It was an easy course, but it confirmed my belief that what you take away from a course has little to do with how rigorous it is.  I still use what I learned there and think about things he said both in and out of class. Who knows what influences we have on our students? Probably more than we know.


August 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Being a lawyer is among the highest paying jobs you can do from home.

The Business Insider has ranked the top 20 highest paying freelance jobs you can do from home with "intellectual property law" and "legal consulting" coming in at 1 and 2, respectively.  Below is the full list and here's a link to the accompanying article.

Highest paying freelance skills (1)

Continue reading at the Business Insider here.


August 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

10 Things That a Professor Loves

 Penn State professor Jane Dmochowski gives her students a list of 10 things that an instructor loves:

I told my students that I love …

1. Students.

2. Students who come to class with an open mind.

3. Students who come to my class to fulfill a requirement but decide to make the most of the experience.

4. Students who give eye contact during a lecture.

5. Students who come to me when they need help.

6. Students who aren’t afraid to ask questions..

7. Students who tell me not just that they enjoyed my course, but why.

8. Students who have their own ideas.

9. Students who give me unique and powerful things to say in a letter of recommendation.

10. Students who are fully engaged in the learning process.

You can read the full explanations here. (You may need a subscription to the Chronicle of Higher Education)

She writes:

When I posted this list on my course website, I told my students that I could easily make this a list of 100 things. But these 10 encapsulate much of why I do what I do. I love working with students, and I told them that I hoped that they would enjoy working with me, even if it wasn’t always fun. I told them, upfront, that I want them to get the most out of their college years, and my hope is that I can be one small part of helping them do so. That is the message I really wanted them to hear — a message of affection and respect.

Guess what I got in return? Much more affection and respect, and a lot less of all that stuff we "hate."


August 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Drop Out Rate at Cali Unaccredited Law Schools: About 90%

From the L.A. Times:

A panel of the State Bar of California approved a plan on Friday to require unaccredited law schools to disclose their dropout rates, in an effort to improve transparency for prospective students.

The unanimous decision comes about a month after a Times investigation found that about 90% of students drop out before their final year.

The move is considered to be part of a larger push to elevate the academic standards of unaccredited law schools where low tuition and few entrance requirements attract those who typically find themselves struggling with the coursework or unable to finish for other reasons.

After the first year of law school, law students must take California’s “baby bar” About twenty percent of students from these schools will pass. Graduates from these schools may take the California bar. About one in five will pass.

You can read more here.



August 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

SCOTUS Amicus Briefs Break Records

From the National Law Journal:

In the 2014-2015 term, “friends of the court” participated in 98 percent of the U.S. Supreme Court’s cases, filed nearly 800 amicus curiae briefs and broke two records: the most amicus briefs filed in a case and the most signatories on a single brief.

But in many ways, this was just business as usual at One First Street. In this, our fifth year analyzing Supreme Court amicus practice for The National Law Journal, we conclude that mountains of briefs, shattered records and the justices’ reliance on amici simply reflect the new norm.

You can read more here.


August 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)


Excellent summary of the Boyack post, Jim.  I would like to stress this sentence from her post: "It is valuable to teach legal doctrine in a way that gives it context and meaning and gives law students a glimpse into the world of practice."

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The goal of producing "practice-ready" grads is really about turning out law students who are ready to undertake a professional apprenticeship

That's the gist of Professor Andrea Boyack's (Washburn) post at PrawfsBlawg titled Get "PRACTICE READY." Get set. Go!  She makes a number of excellent points, most of which I completely agree with. To wit, while it's pedagogically vital to incorporate exercises drawn from practice and experiential learning opportunities into the classroom, it is unrealistic to believe that law schools can produce grads who are ready right out of the gate to handle actual client matters on their own without proper supervision. For one thing, law school simulations can't possibly replicate the economic realities and constraints lawyers face in the real world (See Professor Barnhizer's excellent essay for more on that). More significantly, being an effective lawyer takes good, professional judgment which has to be earned the old fashion way and thus can't possibly be imparted in a 3 or 4 credit course. Rather, good judgment like wisdom only develops over time as the result of mindful effort and application to the task at hand. The primary goal of a legal education has always been and should continue to be about teaching students how to think like a lawyer. It's what law schools excel at and where they have a distinct comparative advantage compared to practitioners.  On the other hand, practitioners are far and away in the best position to mentor and train law grads in the myriad skills needed to actually practice law including everything from client development, to running a small business and the economic realities of trying to deliver effective legal services to clients on a budget. But Professor Boyack says all that and more much better than me so head over to PrawfsBlawg and check it out for yourself

Hat tip to TaxProf Blog.


August 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Elon Gets More Students with Two and One-Half Year JD.

Elon is moving from a 6 semester program to a 7 trimester one, permitting students to finish their studies in a shorter time period. And the school’s innovation is attracting students. From preLaw:

Elon University School of Law’s bold gamble to switch its curriculum to two-and-a-half years, instead of the standard three, may be paying off. The school recently reported that enrollment for the entering class of 2015 is up 18 percent to 132 students.

This accelerated program would allow students to graduate in December rather than May of their third year. It will save students an estimated $14,000 in tuition, not including living expenses, and make them eligible to take the February bar exam, getting a jump-start into the job market.

You can read more here.


August 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Preparing for Service: A Template for 21st Century Legal Education

Preparing for Service: A Template for 21st Century Legal Education by Michael J. Madison.


"Legal educators today grapple with the changing dynamics of legal employment markets; the evolution of technologies and business models driving changes to the legal profession; and the economics of operating – and attending – a law school. Accrediting organizations and practitioners pressure law schools to prepare new lawyers both to be ready to practice and to be ready for an ever-fluid career path. From the standpoint of law schools in general and any one law school in particular, constraints and limitations surround us. Adaptation through innovation is the order of the day.

How, when, and in what direction should innovation take place? Who should lead, guide, and participate? These are questions often asked in both legal education in particular and in higher education in general. Rarely are answers accompanied by specific examples, strategies, or programs. This paper offers precisely that specificity. It documents one institution’s process and output, beginning with the concept of innovation in the face of multiple challenges and proposing one set of concrete, actionable strategies, tactics, and programs. These range from school-wide interventions to ideas for use at the level of the individual faculty member and course.

The purpose of making the paper available is to note merely that if innovation is a hill to be climbed, then it can be climbed. The process and results may be more valuable if they are shared with others, even if the particular route documented here is not the only one available and may not the best for all times and places."

August 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Justice Kagan says law schools must do more to boost legal writing skills

In an interview last month with legal writing expert Bryan Garner (who is the editor of Black's Law Dictionary in addition to running his own legal writing consulting and training firm LawProse) Justice Elena Kagan told him that legal educators need "to think in a deep way" about how to improve law students' writing abilities. Justice Kagan also acknowledged that "writing is one of the hardest things to teach."  Mr. Garner has posted videos of his interview with Justice Kagan on his website LawProse, excerpts of which are also included in this story from the National Law Journal:

Kagan: Law Schools Must Do More to Boost Student Writing Skills

"Writing is one of the hardest things to teach," justice tells legal writing expert Bryan Garner.


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan thinks American law schools—including those in the top tier—need to “think in a deep way” about how to help their students become better writers.

In an interview conducted last month by legal writing expert Bryan Garner, Kagan, who once taught at the University of Chicago Law School and was dean of Harvard Law School, said that for “too many students,” even at the schools she worked at, “nobody taught them” writing skills. She acknowledged that “writing is one of the hardest things to teach.”


When Garner said that some “lower tier” law schools take the teaching of legal writing more seriously than top schools, Kagan said that was based on the false assumption that students at elite law schools know how to write already. “There are lots of students whose writing can be improved,” at all levels, she said.


. . . .


The two discussed Kagan’s own writing as a justice, which has been praised as more accessible and interesting to read for lawyers and non-lawyers alike than many of her colleagues and predecessors on the court.

Asked who her target reader is when she writes opinions, Kagan said, “I write so that a non-lawyer can understand it, but not any non-lawyer.” She said she did not want to “dumb down” the writing too much, so she has a “reader of The New Yorker, or something like that,” in mind when she writes.

. . . . 

You can continue reading the NLJ story here or head to LawProse to watch the full video interview.


August 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Conditional Scholarships Still Abound

A student with a conditional scholarship must keep a certain grade point in order to retain the scholarship. Without that scholarship, a student may be in a terrible bind. The student still has the grades to stay in law school, but maybe not the money to pay the expense.

From PreLaw:

Despite negative press coverage in the past, more law students receive conditional scholarships than ever before. American Bar Association data shows that 120 law schools offered conditional scholarships to more than 11,300 students, or 29 percent of all students, in 2013-2014, the most recent year data is available. Seventy-three percent of those students kept their scholarships, up from 68.5 percent in 2011. 

But there are still big disparities in school retention rates. While 46 of the 120 law schools have retention rates higher than 80 percent, there are still 29 schools with retention rates below 60 percent.

You can read more here.


August 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

WSJ asks "Do Law Schools Have it Too Easy?"

A follow-up story related to Steve Harper's NYT Op-Ed called "Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs."  From the Wall Street Journal Law Blog

Law school enrollment has taken a big hit in recent years with entering classes shrinking by more than 25% between 2010 and 2014.


Steven J. Harper, a former partner at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP and author of“The Lawyer Bubble,” says the decline isn’t steep enough.

. . . . 

Mr. Harper thinks the amount of tuition that government guaranteed loans cover should be tied to an individual school’s employment data, with a sliding scale funding formula that punishes the worst-performing schools. And he faults the ABA task force for not recommending changes that would hold law schools more accountable. Law Blog reached out to a spokesman for the ABA for comment.


While the number of graduates started declining in 2014 and is projected to slide even faster in coming years, Mr. Harper tells Law Blog that he doesn’t think the reductions will matter that much after so many years of oversupply.

. . . . 

 Continue reading the WSJ Law Blog piece here.


August 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How Does Business View Millennials?

In our world, we deal with Millennials daily and focus on how to work with them in an educational setting. The business world also thinks about millennials and their role in the present and future economy.

Here are excerpts from UBS Wealth Management Research that may be of interest:

Over the next decade, as Millennials mature into later adulthood, we expect their mobile usage and online activity to increase and become more ingrained into their daily lives. Given already heavy Internet traffic, social networking services could be catapulted into a forefront position. Consequently, we expect such online platforms to increasingly become the gateway for a range of online activities, from news and media consumption, to e-Commerce via personalized advertising, to video streaming.

While individuals would previously consult friends and family prior to certain purchasing decisions, social media, in-depth product information, online forums, consumer reviews, and price comparisons exponentially expand the universe of available information. Millennials have grown up with better tools, accessible at the simple touch of their fingertips, than any previous generation, leading to more informed and cost-conscious decision-making.

This generational shift favors organic food producers, as well as digital fitness gadgets and trendy athletic apparel.

In our view, these cyclical headwinds, paired with shifting attitudes toward getting married and having children at a later age, are driving low homeownership rates among young adults. This is a trend we expect to continue, and believe will favor rental-related companies—particularly in growing urban areas—as well as “sharing economy” businesses that utilize the Internet and mobile devices to provide on-demand services without an ownership commitment (e.g., Zipcar).


August 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Remember Trump U?

That was the online college that Donald Trump started to teach business skills to students willing to pay an appreciable amount. According to a story in Money (here), some students say they learned little and were scammed. A law suit is pending. Maybe the students should have considered law school.


August 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

First Faculty Meeting of the Year Bingo

Here is McSweeney’s First Faculty Meeting of the Year Bingo. Click here and you pull up a Bingo card. In each square are words or actions that a colleague may say or do. [ Examples: “critical thinking” “Faculty member laughs at own joke.”] Get five across or five down or five on a diagonal and mumble “Bingo!”


August 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Word: Hangry

When you skip a meal or go more than 7 hours without eating, you may become hungry and ornery or even angry. You have become “hangry.”

So when you or your students skip a meal because they're or you’re too overscheduled or otherwise busy, maybe the remedy is food. Sometimes a student’s class schedule is so tight that the result is hangry-ness and you have a difficult class to manage. Here is a 3:30 minute video from AsapSCIENCE explaining the biological facts.


August 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Defining Good Writing in Academic Terms and in Plain English

From Ann Trubek in Five Lessons for Writing to the Public (here):

Regarding neurological patterns of attention and engagement, frequently, textual formats are consumed with a decline in interest in addition to decreased comprehension of linguistic units when patterns of grammatical units that lack indication of agency and subject behavior are employed.


Write well. Be lively. Select words carefully. Use active verbs. Vary sentence length. Make the subjects of your sentences characters. Many scholars craft boring, dense, pedantic sentences. Don’t be like them.

By the way, if you want to write not just for academics, but for magazines as well, the article offers good advice.


August 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Professional Formation with Emerging Adult Law Students in the 21-29 Age Group: Engaging Students to Take Ownership of Their Own Professional Development Toward Both Excellence and Meaningful Employment

Professional Formation with Emerging Adult Law Students in the 21-29 Age Group: Engaging Students to Take Ownership of Their Own Professional Development Toward Both Excellence and Meaningful Employment by Neil W. Hamilton.


"Four factors have converged that require law faculty to add an additional foundational learning outcome, focused on helping each law student to take ownership over her own professional development, to the traditional emphasis of legal education on technical competencies such as doctrinal knowledge, legal analysis, and legal research and writing.

First, we have a new understanding of the importance of the development of each student toward an internalized ethic of responsibility and service to others, plus an internalized commitment to professional development toward excellence. Second, there are both new data to consider on the developmental stages of students who are emerging adults in the 21-29 age group and new data that a substantial proportion of law students are at an earlier stage of taking ownership over their own professional development than where the faculty and the profession want them to be. Third, we have a new understanding of curriculum that is effective in helping each student take ownership of her own professional development. Fourth, both potential applicants (in deciding which institution to attend) and the federal government (concerned about student loan repayment) are increasingly emphasizing gainful employment outcomes.

Taken together, the four factors are impelling law schools and the legal profession to define a professional formation learning outcome where each student takes ownership over creating and implementing a written plan to use her time in law school most effectively for her own professional development toward both excellence at the competencies needed to serve others well and, ultimately, meaningful employment.

Recent empirical research on emerging adults in the 18-29 age range indicates their dominant motivation is to achieve self-sufficiency, which in turn has two principal sub-elements: (1) accepting responsibility for yourself; and (2) becoming financially independent. Legal educators (both faculty and staff) must help each student to understand that in order to achieve self-sufficiency, the student must take ownership to create and implement a written plan for his professional development toward excellence at the competencies needed to serve others well (this is the key learning outcome) across the whole arc of his or her studies, career, and life. This paper analyzes new assessment data demonstrating the effectiveness of a new curriculum designed to help each student take ownership over her professional development."

August 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

National Law Journal: California's practical skills plan divides AALS.

From Monday's National Law Journal:

Practical-Skills Plan Divides Law School Association


Whether the State Bar of California’s plan to require new attorneys to complete at least 15-credits of practical skills courses in law school is unduly restrictive or a needed step to ensure they have some real-world competencies depends on whom you ask—even within the same organization.


The Association of American Law Schools is split over the bar’s proposal, with a coalition of law school deans in opposition and a group of clinical professors in favor.


The executive committee of the association’s Section of Clinical Legal Education last week released a statement supporting the plan to add the experiential learning requirement for bar admissions, saying it “encourages the integration of 21st century lawyering skills into the core of legal education, presents a significant opportunity to better prepare students to meet the demands of clients upon admission to the bar.” The section counts hundreds of clinical professors as members.


In July, however, the AALS’s Deans Steering Committee—composed of 15 deans from law schools across the country— wrote to the bar to warn that the plan would create a confusing patchwork of state requirements, stifle innovation and limit the flexibility students have in choosing law classes. The deans requested that the bar hold off on implementing new requirements until educators can assess a new American Bar Association rule requiring that graduates complete at least six credit hours of hands-on classes.


California bar officials signed off on the plan in November but are awaiting approval from the California Supreme Court and state legislature. Under the plan, clinics, externships, clerkships, and legal work in a law office would count toward the 15-credit requirement. Doctrinal courses would partially count if they incorporate skills such as drafting and negotiating. The proposal also calls for new lawyers to complete at least 50 hours of pro bono or reduced-fee services while in law school or during their first year of practice, and undergo 10 hours of continuing legal education or bar-sponsored mentorship in their first year.


But the 15-credit experiential learning requirement has generated the most debate and disagreement within the legal academy.


. . . . 

Continue reading here.


August 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)