Thursday, March 24, 2016

California Unaccredited Law Schools Will Have to Report Drop Out Rates

From the LA Times:

California's unaccredited law schools, which collectively have an 85% dropout rate, will soon have to disclose their attrition rates to prospective students.

State bar trustees voted Friday to require the schools to publish their dropout rates for the last five years.

The 12-to-1 vote came after The Times revealed that students in the state's unaccredited law schools were far more likely to drop out than students at nationally accredited law schools, which have a dropout rate of about 12%.

Students who attended the unaccredited schools said they were not aware that so few students finished their degrees.

You can read more here. California has 22 unaccredited law schools.


March 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What do law students gain by working as corporate externs?

This Corporate Counsel blog post discusses a popular extern program at SMU's Dedman School of Law:

What Law Students Gain When They Work as Corporate Externs

In today’s world, employers demand recent law graduates who can “hit the ground running.” And the experience students gain in corporate externships helps prepare them for those expectations. In the very first class session, I stress, “Your externship is a learning experience. It’s not the pathway to a legal job like a summer clerkship is with a law firm, but the skills, substantive experience, broader networks and stronger résumés you build through the program can make you more attractive to legal employers.”


The program helps students gain experience they can include on their résumés and makes them more attractive to prospective employers. I show them how to include their externship experience on their résumés, just as they would any other legal experience, so they can highlight the valuable training and practical experience they acquire over the course of the semester.


By the time students participate in the externship program as 3Ls, most have litigation experience working with a judge or a law firm. All too often, however, externs have no transactional experience, which can be much more difficult for students to obtain in law school. One of the side benefits of the externship program is that it provides a large number of transactional placements where students can work with contracts, conduct due diligence and attend negotiations. As an example, one student assisted attorneys with a credit agreement and observed the agreement evolve from the first draft to the closing. Another student worked on compliance checklists and schedules, allowing her to delve into regulations governing public companies and to review the company’s policies for compliance.


The program also provides students with educational experiences they could not obtain in the classroom. For example, students have the opportunity to work in very specialized practice areas it would be difficult for them to learn about in law school or at law firms, such as fashion law, cybersecurity, healthcare compliance, aviation taxation and food labeling law.


. . . . 

Continued reading here.


March 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Increased Debt-Related Stress Among Law Students

Newly-released data by the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) analyzes law student debt trends during the 10-year period, 2006 to 2015. The report,How a Decade of Debt Changed the Law Student Experience, provides a compelling view of the rising nature of law student debt and how those trends affected various aspects of the student experience. The report also explores the nature and sources of law student stress. . . .

About three-quarters of respondents reported that concerns about academic performance and academic workload were sources of high stress and anxiety. More than half of respondents indicated that concerns about job prospects and finances (including student debt) were sources of high stress and anxiety.

Higher expected debt was associated with higher stress and anxiety. More than half of respondents who expected to owe more than $80,000 reported experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety during the school year, compared to 41% of those who expected no debt.

In 2015, 70% of respondents who expected to owe more than $120,000 reported high levels of stress relating to finances and student loans, compared to only 9% of respondents expecting no debt.

You can read more about the distressing report here.


March 23, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

An Introduction to Professional Identity Development for Law Students

I have written a short article to introduce law students to professional identity: An Introduction to Professional Identity Development for Law Students by Scott Fruehwald.


Professional identity involves the inner self in relation to the legal profession. It is a lawyer’s personal legal morality, values, decision-making process, and self-consciousness in relation to the practices of the legal profession (legal culture). It provides the framework that lawyers use to make all their decisions. Helping students develop their professional identities is the next step in legal education reform.

This paper introduces law students to professional identity development. It explains what it is, it discusses law schools that have professional identity programs or classes, and it tells students how they can develop their own professional identities.
(Scott Fruehwald)


March 23, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Solving the Legal Profession's Diversity Problem by William D. Henderson

Solving the Legal Profession's Diversity Problem by William D. Henderson.  Professor Henderson always has a creative solution.


Among both diverse and white lawyers, there is a widespread perception that the legal profession's lack of diversity is due to a lack of moral resolve. As a result, each successive generation of leadership pledges to deepen its level of commitment. This article argues that the lack of progress is attributable to a systems problem rather than a moral deficit. A careful examination of relevant data reveal that the biggest areas of bottleneck are hiring, work allocation, and lawyer development systems that are rooted in tradition and past practice and rather than science. The evidence suggests that if we design and implement better systems, out the other side will flow successful diverse lawyers in roughly the same proportion as the number we managed to hire several years earlier.

March 23, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Do Amicus Briefs Influence the Supreme Court?

One study answers yes, in some circumstances:

We argue that the justices will incorporate language from amicus briefs into their opinions based on the extent to which the amicus briefs contribute to their ability to make effective law and policy. Using plagiarism detection software and other forms of computer assisted content analysis, we find that the justices adopt language from amicus briefs based primarily on the quality of the brief's argument, the level of repetition in the brief, the ideological position advocated in the brief, and the identity of the amicus. These results add fresh insight into how interest groups influence the development of federal law by the Supreme Court.

Paul M. Collins, Jr., Pamela C. Corley, Jesse Hammer, The Influence of Amicus Curiae Briefs on U.S. Supreme Court Opinion Content 49 Law & Society Review 917 (2015).

You can read more here.


March 22, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyers at Work: A Study of the Reading, Writing, And Communication Practices of Legal Professionals

There are few empirical studies of the effectiveness of particular teaching methods in legal education.  Ann Sinsheimer and David J. Herring have undertaken a study of attorneys in the workplace to determine what tasks they typically perform.  Lawyers at Work: A Study of the Reading, Writing, And Communication Practices of Legal Professionals.  Their study provides a great deal of information about how law schools should be education their students.


"This paper reports the results of a three-year ethnographic study of attorneys in the workplace. The authors applied ethnographic methods to identify how junior associates in law firm settings engaged in reading and writing tasks in their daily practice. The authors were able to identify the types of texts junior associates encountered in the workplace and to isolate the strategies these attorneys used to read and compose texts.

The findings suggest that lawyering is fundamentally about reading. The attorneys observed for this study read constantly, encountering a large variety of texts and engaging in many styles of reading, including close reading and also reading broadly, skimming and scanning texts for information. Their writing processes typically began by reading and rereading the information they used to substantiate their written work. They functioned in stressful environments in which they felt pressed for time and had to juggle multiple tasks.

This paper explores the implications of these findings for a variety of audiences, including legal educators, law firms training junior associates, and those doing research on legal pedagogy. For legal educators, the results of this study can be used to develop classroom exercises and to train new teachers. Notably, legal educators should consider devoting more time to teaching reading skills.  Although legal educators often assume that law students possess the necessary reading skills, this study indicates that this assumption is faulty and that instruction in this area is likely a key component in the successful transition to practice. For law firms, this study sheds light on the tasks with which new attorneys struggle and reveals the areas in which new attorneys require the most facility. In terms of legal research, this ethnography provides a model that can be expanded to study these same practice areas and other practice areas at law firms of all sizes throughout the country."
Here are some other helpful resources on legal reading:
Laurel C. Oates, Beating the Odds: Reading Strategies of Law Students Admitted through Alternative Admissions Programs, 83 Iowa L. Rev. 139, 148 (1997).
Peter Dewitz, Legal Education: A Problem of Learning from Text, 23 N.Y.U. L. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 225, 228 (1997).
James F. Stratman, When Law Students Read Cases: Exploring Relations between Professional Legal Reasoning Roles and Problem Detection, 34 Discourse Processes 57 (2002).
Leah M. Christensen, The Psychology behind Case Briefing: A Powerful Cognitive Schema, 29 Campbell L. Rev. 5, 13 (2006).
Leah M. Christensen, The Paradox of Legal Expertise: A Study of Experts and Novices Reading the Law, 30 Seattle U. L. Rev. 603 (2007).
(Scott Fruehwald)

March 22, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 21, 2016

The state of practice-readiness for Canadian law school grads

This post from the popular Canadian law blog Slaw summarizes a recent Canadian Bar Association program that addressed the needs and concerns surrounding "practice-readiness" for new law grads north of the border.  

Helping New Lawyers Become Practice-Ready 

. . . . 

This topic was also the focus of a recent CBA Futures workshop entitled Transforming Legal Education in Canada: a Workshop to Inspire Change. 


In Canada, at least, we don’t expect law school graduates to be ready to hang out their shingles right away. Law school is not the end of pre-call training. Unlike the United States (where passing a bar exam is all that’s needed), we require that law students complete a period of articles along with some form of bar admission course or bar exam. (One exception is the Ontario Law Practice Program that may be completed in place of articling.)


The BC Law Society recently reviewed its pre-call program of nine months of articling plus 10 weeks of the Professional Legal Training Course. Earlier this month, the Lawyer Education Advisory Committee presented its thorough and thoughtful report to the Benchers. The committee enthusiastically supports the current program; the general tenor of the report is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.


Meanwhile, the Federation of Law Societies has also been active in this space. They developed a national entry-level competence profile (now adopted by 13 law societies). They are now working on a national assessment proposal to provide consistency in how law societies assess competence. BC’s Lawyer Education Advisory Committee, though, has concerns about the proposal, given that the proposed exams would cover national law only. The Benchers will address these issues in the near future.


What do we hear from new lawyers about their practice-readiness? At a recent conference for CLE providers, we interviewed and surveyed new lawyers (both Canadian and American) from our jurisdictions. They were asked about they were enjoying about the practice of law, their greatest challenges and concerns, what they wish they knew more of, and their most critical needs.


. . . .

Continue reading here.


March 21, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teaching the Craft of Law: Teaching Intuition

At the Wisconsin Lawyer (March 2016), Professor Chad Oldfather thinks about what he teaches and reflects on his first year in law school and what he learned:

It would be foolish to suggest that I learned nothing. But it turns out that what stuck was less the doctrine and more the underlying ideas. I acquired more “knowledge how” than “knowledge that.” I started to learn, as the saying goes, to think like a lawyer. It’s a process involving the development of intuition and feel, much like learning to ride a horse.

I have not abandoned teaching “knowledge that.” We study criminal law using Wisconsin materials, and my constitutional law class features all the standard cases. But I have become more mindful of, and explicit about, the fact that I am teaching “knowledge how.” I have tried to adapt, in ways that are often as much about attitude as they are about technique, the best of what I have seen in the world of riding instruction. More fundamentals. More repetition.

You can read more here.


March 21, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

How Students Can Develop Resiliency

Given the ups and downs of law school and life, we can succeed only if we are resilient. Can we develop resiliency. A recent post on Best Practices for Legal Education (March 8, 2016) looks to neuroscience and says yes. Here is how:

The secret lies in the connection between the frontal cortex—the brain’s manager, and the amygdala- the brain’s emotional center. A stronger connection means the frontal cortex is better able to control the amygdala and tell it to calm down. How to build that connection? Here are some simple tips:

  1. Face the things you fear, don’t run from them. This relaxes the fear circuit.
  2. Develop a strong network of social support. One study revealed that when people were exposed to a stressor in a lab, heart rate and blood pressure did not rise as much if they were with a friend or loved one, as opposed to receiving that news alone.
  3. Work the body’s muscles through exercise. This also builds resiliency in the brain because exercise spurs development of new neural pathways, which can replace those depleted by stress.
  4. Be mindful. A 2010 Harvard study showed people spend 47% of their day thinking about things other than what they are actually doing. There are myriad materials and apps available online-from simple breathing exercises to guided meditations.
  5. Reach for support when needed and share your true feelings.
  6. Don’t beat yourself up or dwell on the past. Pushing out the negative thoughts with positive ones can lead to dramatic reductions in stress and increases in resiliency.

True, I think, but hard to put into practice and even harder to effectively impart this advice to struggling students. But worth the effort. You can read more here.


March 20, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Schools with Professional Identity or Legal Ethics Centers

Prof says law schools should embrace online education

Professor Max Huffman (Indiana) argues in a newly published article, Online Learning Grows Up -- And Heads to Law School, 49 Ind. L. Rev. 57 (2015) that law schools should embrace online education for several reason including reduced tuition costs to students, increased flexibility, improved student diversity and better learning outcomes (with respect to the latter, but see this meta-analysis of online learning by the U.S. Department of Education published in 2010).  You can also find Professor Huffman's article on SSRN here. From the abstract:

Online education is now in the mainstream. Schools use online teaching methods as early as elementary school and thousands of students across the country pursue their entire high school studies online. Undergraduate and graduate programs are offered online. At Indiana University, where I teach, there are nearly fifty undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees offered entirely online. An increasing percentage of law students have taken at least one, and some have taken several, online courses before matriculating into the JD program.

The legal academy has been slow to catch on. Perhaps wedded to a Langdellian view of teaching by casebook and Socratic methods, law schools’ primary accrediting agency, the American Bar Association (“ABA”), limits opportunities for online learning in law schools. No student may take courses online in his or her first year and, in the absence of a variance, the maximum number of credits students may take online in a JD program is fifteen. ABA-accredited online law schools are several years away — at least in regards the JD degree.

The academy's recalcitrance is a mistake. Online legal education promises reduced costs for students, increased flexibility, a more diverse student population in any one course, degree, or sub-degree program, and improved learning outcomes. Law schools that recognize this opportunity and seize it, paying close attention to learning outcomes and pedagogically sound course design, will earn a competitive advantage while benefiting their students.


March 20, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Five Facebook Rules for Lawyers

Attorney at Work offers these five rules for lawyers:


  1. Post interesting content that makes people want to interact.Post about hot-topic issues and current events within your practice area, or write posts focused on the top concerns of your target audience.
  2. Respond quickly. Whether comments, private messages or mentions of your law firm on other Facebook pages, people may view your responsiveness on social media as a reflection of the client service offered by your firm.
  3. Track engagement using analytics.Use Facebook Insights sites or a social media management program such as HootSuite to keep track of how people are interacting with your page.
  4. Run ads on Facebook.Facebook ads help you expand your reach, meaning they get your posts viewed by more users — including users who are not already fans of your page.
  5. Don’t overshare.Be careful not to overstep professional ethics boundaries on Facebook or any other social media platform, which are public forums.

For fuller advice on these tips, please click here.


March 19, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 18, 2016

A new book challenging the myths about digital natives

A new book by European researchers challenges many of the popular myths surrounding digital natives, technology and learning. The book, appropriately titled Urban Myths About Learning and Education, is available here from Amazon. The authors have also published a short article called Technology in Education: What Teachers Should Know that summarizes the key points in their book including:

  • Myth 1: New technology is causing a revolution in education (it isn't; research has repeatedly shown that it's teaching practices, not technology, that makes the difference).
  • Myth 2: The internet belongs in the classroom because it is part of the personal world experienced by children (the gap between "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" is greatly overstated and probably nonexistent. It's so-called digital immigrants, after all, who invented this stuff in the first place. Moreover, most students say they prefer their teachers to make only moderate use of technology in the classroom).
  • Myth 3: Today's "digital natives" are a new generation who want a new style of education (though this assertion seems intuitively correct, there's little, if any, hard evidence to support it).
  • Myth 4: The Internet is making us dumber (an alarmist claim perpetrated by authors with books to sell but so far lacking empirical support).
  • Myth 5: Young people don't read anymore (au contraire mon frere; they're reading lots and books and libraries are still very much relevant).

As the authors explain, these myths persist despite the lack of evidence because they seem so intuitively correct and thus are repeated and circulated among educators without critical examination which has the effect of transforming "beliefs" into fact. For a discussion of this phenomenon in the law school context, please check out my own article discussing the myths about digital natives, their origin and why they persist here.


March 18, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Released: US News 2017 Law School Rankings

Here they are, for what it’s worth. And, from TaxProf Blog, here are peer reputation rankings per school compared with USNWR overall rankings. Sometimes there is consistency, and sometimes, there is wild variation. I tend not to trust the peer rankings, which are based on opinion and often outdated perceptions, and place more trust in the hard numbers.


March 18, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Idaho Launches LL.M in Democracy, Justice and the American Legal System

From the National Jurist:

The University of Idaho College of Law plans to launch a new LL.M. degree this fall with an emphasis in several areas including democracy, justice and the American legal system.

The program has been approved by the State Board of Education and the American Bar Association. The final step in approval is review by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

“The addition of the LL.M. degree marks a significant academic expansion at the College of Law,” said Dean Mark L. Adams.

LL.M. students will be able to choose an emphasis in democracy, justice and the American legal system; natural resources and environmental law; business law and entrepreneurship; or litigation and alternative dispute resolution

You can read more here. One many view an LL.M in Democracy, etc. as helping to develop good world citizens, but how much practical knowledge does it give that international student? At least it gives the students an American law credential. If anyone at Idaho would like to take issue with this statement, we would be happy to post a response.


March 18, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

What Exactly is Emotional Intelligence?


From the Washington Lawyer:

Emotional intelligence is a set of skills, both social and emotional, that we tap into to better understand ourselves and others. We use these skills to attain awareness and information about our own emotions, to perceive the emotions of others, to communicate with people, to maintain relationships, and to deal with the stressors and challenges inherent in life.

This brief article (here) discusses emotional intelligence, its relevance to lawyers, and how it differs from a personality trait. A good introduction.


March 17, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New study finds students say they prefer digital text but perform better with print

A new study by University of Maryland Professors Lauren Singer and Patricia Alexander found that a group of undergrad students who were asked whether they preferred digital text or print chose the former but but actually performed better with respect to the recall of key points when reading traditional print. The study consisted of 90 undergrad students enrolled in human development and educational psychology courses at a large mid-Atlantic university who were asked to read 4 book and 4 newspaper excerpts that were each approximately 450 words long. Here's the link to the full study and below is the publisher's abstract:

Reading Across Mediums: Effects of Reading Digital and Print Texts on Comprehension and Calibration


This study explored differences that might exist in comprehension when students read digital and print texts. Ninety undergraduates read both digital and print versions of newspaper articles and book excerpts on topics of childhood ailments. Prior to reading texts in counterbalanced order, topic knowledge was assessed and students were asked to state medium preferences. After reading, students were asked to judge under which medium they comprehended best. Results demonstrated a clear preference for digital texts, and students typically predicted better comprehension when reading digitally. However, performance was not consistent with students' preferences and outcome predictions. While there were no differences across mediums when students identified the main idea of the text, students recalled key points linked to the main idea and other relevant information better when engaged with print. No differences in reading outcomes or calibration were found for newspaper or book excerpts.


March 17, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Cognition and Justice: New Ways to Think Like a Lawyer by Deborah Jones Merritt

Deborah Jones Merritt has written an important new article on legal education: Cognition and Justice: New Ways to Think Like a Lawyer.


"Practicing lawyers commonly pursue 'functional justice,' which I define as the peaceful resolution of competing interests. That justice includes two sub-types: rule-abiding justice and rule-changing justice. Law schools focus primarily on rule-changing justice, while practicing attorneys most often pursue rule-abiding justice. This article, delivered as a Hartman Hotz Lecture at the University of Arkansas, explores the problems arising from that rift.

The pursuit of rule-changing and rule-abiding justice require complementary, but somewhat different, cognitive skills. By overlooking the complex skills of rule-abiding justice, law schools fail to fully prepare their graduates to 'think like a lawyer.' Schools should continue to teach the skills of rule-changing justice, but must complement that work with more attention to rule-abiding justice. Otherwise, clients suffer and lawyers risk losing more of that work to other professionals."
"This cognitive skill, recognizing patterns and developing productive filters, is essential in law practice. It is especially important for the lawyers who pursue rule-abiding justice. In those cases, the legal analysis is relatively straightforward. The quality of the client’s outcome depends, not on the lawyer’s ability to apply the law to the facts, but on her ability to navigate the other elements of the representation. Lawyers who excel at recognizing patterns and developing smart filters will reach the most successful outcomes for their clients."
Key point: "[W]e now know that the skills needed to provide rule-abiding justice are as cognitively complex as those used to secure rule-changing justice."
"There is one more cognitive skill that practicing lawyers need: They must know when to throw out the old patterns and rules. Cognitive scientists do not fully understand this phenomenon. What triggers an expert’s decision to abandon established wisdom and pursue a new course? The expert must do this judiciously. Professionals who abandon patterns too often will flounder, waste time, and achieve poor results. Those who adhere doggedly to existing patterns, on the other hand, will fail novel challenges. An essential part of professional expertise is the ability to switch appropriately from pattern-based thinking to an untried approach."
I find Professor Merritt's distinction between rule-changing justice and rule-abiding justice and the different cognitive skills involved with each to be especially significant.

March 16, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Lax Code of Conduct for SCOTUS Justices?

From Bloomberg Views:

Although justices are not above the law, they have exempted themselves from the code of conduct that applies to all other federal judges. When lower-court judges face a motion to step aside owing to a possible conflict of interest, other judges settle the question. Justices on the Supreme Court, however, get to decide questions about their own impartiality by themselves, sometimes arriving at dubious conclusions.

You can read the rest of the editorial here. It points out how flexible the disclosure laws are for SCOTUS Justices. For example:

A recent analysis of their travel showed that from 2004 to 2014, justices took more than 1,000 trips paid for by outside groups. But the rules regarding disclosure are unclear. Scalia may not have been required to disclose his free stay at the Texas resort in a suite that starts at $700 a night, for example, because exceptions are made for “personal hospitality” provided by a property owner. Even if properly disclosed, justices need provide few details about the nature of their paid trips.


March 16, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)