Tuesday, May 31, 2016
The first thing I learned when I became a lawyer was the importance of research skills. There were many times in my legal career when I won a case because I had done better research than my opponent.
Today, many law librarians teach advanced or specialized legal research courses. Such courses can use the same experiential techniques as other law school courses.
A Golden Opportunity: Legal Research Simulation Courses by Leslie Ann Street & Shawn G. Nevers.
At the Wisconsin Lawyer (May 2016), lawyer and novelist Michael Bowen writes about the storyline of his legal career. Along the way, he delineates the different roles of lawyers and fiction writers:
For neither novelists nor lawyers are storylines something you just make up. Fiction is a search for truth liberated from the tyranny of fact; law is a search for truth constrained by fact (one hopes). Whether you’re a lawyer or a novelist, when you search for the truth, every once in a while you find it – and then you have to decide what you’re going to do about it.
Intriguing. You can read more here.
Monday, May 30, 2016
Off topic. For fans of low-budget 1950s sci fi movies, The Blob is a classic. The blob arrives from outer space and proceeds to grow in size as it consumes people. A young Steve McQueen discovers how to halt the blob’s rampage.
In one famous scene, the blob appears in a crowded movie theater, and the panicked patrons run out the doors screaming in terror. The scene was filmed at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, not far from where I live.
Each year, the theater holds Blobfest. On one night, during a showing of the movie, the audience screams and heads for the street. Too much fun.
If you are in the area, you may want to check Blobfest off on your bucket list. Here is the information. But don’t delay. All events sell out very quickly.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Another important article on teaching professional identity to law students: Professional Formation and the Political Economy of the American Law School by Louis D. Bilionis.
No, we weren’t invited to the party. But many serious and not-so-serious folks were. All award winners could give acceptance speeches, but only speeches with five or fewer words. If you noodle around here and have patience, you can hear Kim Kardashian West’s speech. As you might expect some of the content is a tad risqué.
On the serious side, you can find an award to Social Explorer for project Threat to Representation of Children and Non-Citizens, a report with interactive maps showing the potential impact of the Supreme Court case Evenwel v. Abbott on redistricting. The case, decided after this report was issued, held that the “one person, one vote” principle permits a state to design its legislative districts based on total population, not just on voting population.
Top online job sites for law students seeking traditional as well as alternative career opportunities.
Hilary Mantis, a career advice columnist for National Jurist Magazine, has complied a list of top job sites for law students still looking for employment. Ms. Mantis provides recommended websites to visit based on whether you're looking for a traditional legal job in either the private or public sector as well as those looking for alternative careers where they can put their JD to use. Check out the list of resources Ms. Mantis has compiled here.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
From the AP
George Mason University is free to rename its law school for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia after a state council decided Tuesday it had no oversight role in the matter.
The school announced plans to rename the school for Scalia back in March. The new name is connected to a $10 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation and a $20 million matching grant from an anonymous donor. The anonymous contribution is contingent on renaming the school.
You can read more here.
Friday, May 27, 2016
The Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease law firm advises parents to get their college-bound offspring to sign two documents: a durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. If your kids object, you may have to explain the facts of life to them. You can access information here.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
A new, extensive longitudinal study identifies strong predictors and points out weak and nonexistent predictors. Alexia Brunet Marks & Scott A. Moss, What Predicts Law School Success? A Longitudinal Study Correlating Law Student Applicant Data and Law School Outcomes. Here are the primary findings:
(1) LSAT predicts more weakly, and UGPA more powerfully, than commonly assumed - and a high‐LSAT/low‐UGPA profile may predict worse than the opposite;
(2) a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) or EAF (economics, accounting, finance) major is a significant plus, akin to three and a half to four extra LSAT points;
(3) several years’ work experience is a significant plus, with teaching especially positive and military the weakest;
(4) a criminal or disciplinary record is a significant minus, akin to seven and a half fewer LSAT points; and
(5) long‐noted gender disparities seem to have abated, but racial disparities persist.
Some predictors were interestingly nonlinear: college quality has decreasing returns; UGPA has increasing returns; a rising UGPA is a plus only for law students right out of college; and four to nine years of work is a “sweet spot.” Certain groups - those with military or public‐sector work, or a criminal/disciplinary record - have high LGPA variance, indicating a mix of high and low performers requiring close scrutiny. Many traditionally valued traits had no predictive value: typical prelaw majors (political science, history, etc.); legal or public‐sector work; or college leadership.
You can access the study here.
The Oyez Project is a free, online repository containing more than 10,000 audio tapes of U.S. Supreme Court arguments going back 60 years. According to this story in the National Law Journal, the Oyez Project is about to get a new home, moving from its present host the Chicago-Kent College of Law to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute in co-sponsorship with Justia, the online publisher of legal information. The National Law Journal hints that the continuing financial viability of the Oyez Project was in doubt until Cornell and Justia stepped in to ink a new deal to host the project. Oyez is a tremendously valuable resource for scholars, law students, legal skills instructors, practitioners and anyone else with an interest in appellate oral arguments. Here's an excerpt from the NLJ story:
. . . .
The Supreme Court has taped oral arguments for the last 60 years and deposited them with the National Archives. Oyez makes the audio available on its website with additional information, including searchable transcripts that are synchronized to the audio.
That makes it easy to hear the moment during arguments in the 2003 affirmative action case Grutter v. Bollinger when then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist addressed advocate Maureen Mahoney—a former law clerk of his—by her first name. Or, more recently, the time on March 27, 2012, when the late Justice Antonin Scalia compared the coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act to an order that the public buy broccoli.
. . . .
The project is now housed at Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago under an agreement that expires soon. By the time the new term of the Supreme Court begins in October, Goldman said, its home will be Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, though Chicago-Kent may stay involved.
“We’re delighted to be the recipient of what is a tremendous gift,” said Thomas Bruce, co-founder and director of the institute at Cornell. “Oyez is obviously of huge interest to the research community” and to lawyers, law students and the general public.
Tim Stanley, chief executive officer of Justia, described Oyez as the source of “a lot of stuff that you don’t find anywhere else” that is important “from a public-information standpoint.” He added, “people like to see how their institutions work.” Justia has given technical assistance to Oyez for years; when you click on an Oyez link to a Supreme Court decision, you are sent to Justia.
The Oyez site will look the same for now, though Bruce and Stanley both say that over time improvements and expansions will be made to make more information about the court even more accessible. “We’re still figuring it out,” Bruce said.
Stanley said he sees possible alliances with other law schools, law firms and legal publishing companies. For now, he said, “Oyez.org is not going to change much at all.” Stanley said he is committed to keeping access to Oyez free to the public.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
The use of the Socratic method in first-year law classes has been frequently criticized. Among these criticisms are that it is not as effective with female students and monorities as it is for white, male students. However, questions remains an important teaching technique. Maybe, the solution is to change the questioning method that law professors use.
This article concerns the Socratic method in medical schools:
Socrates Was Not a Pimp: Changing the Paradigm of Questioning in Medical Education by Amanda Kost, MD, and Frederick M. Chen, MD, MPH.
The slang term “pimping” is widely recognized by learners and educators in the clinical learning environment as the act of more senior members of the medical team publicly asking questions of more junior members. Although questioning as a pedagogical practice has many benefits, pimping, as described in the literature, evokes negative emotions in learners and leads to an environment that is not conducive to adult learning. Medical educators may employ pimping as a pedagogic technique because of beliefs that it is a Socratic teaching method. Although problems with pimping have previously been identified, no alternative techniques for questioning in the clinical environment were suggested. The authors posit that using the term “pimping” to describe questioning in medical education is harmful and unprofessional, and they propose clearly defining pimping as “questioning with the intent to shame or humiliate the learner to maintain the power hierarchy in medical education.” Explicitly separating pimping from the larger practice of questioning allows the authors to make three recommendations for improving questioning practices. First, educators should examine the purpose of each question they pose to learners. Second, they should apply historic and modern interpretations of Socratic teaching methods that promote critical thinking skills. Finally, they should consider adult learning theories to make concrete changes to their questioning practices. These changes can result in questioning that is more learner centered, aids in the acquisition of knowledge and skills, performs helpful formative and summative assessments of the learner, and improves community in the clinical learning environment.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
This website, the University Title Generator (here) will generate high-sounding, vapid titles to which you may decide to aspire (plus suggested salaries). How about “Interim Deputy Manager of the Subcommittee for Athletic Outreach” or “Lead Associate Provost for the Subcommittee for Strategic Community Affairs?”
Meta-Mindfulness: A New Hope by Peter H. Huang.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Most of us journey on a rocky road of ups and downs. Few travel on a golden road to professional success. It’s easy to say that we learn from our failures or that our failures ultimately lead to triumphs. But when we encounter hard times, we have difficulty finding a bright silver lining.
Vitae offers the reflections of several academics who encountered setbacks and overcame them. Their words may be helpful to those on the journey. You can access them here.
The study by conducted by University of Illinois researchers focused on the relationship between college grads (not law students), educational loan debt and wealth accumulation. The study has been published in the journal Children and Youth Services Review, available here, and is also summarized here in the science news blog EurekAlert. The following is the study abstract:
With the use of education loans growing rapidly as a way to finance college education, it is important to examine how such loans impact the future financial well-being. This study examines the association between education loans and postcollege wealth accumulation among young adults, the group with the greatest share of outstanding education loans. Data come from 15 rounds of data of the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, and the analyses control for a number of student characteristics, college experiences, and parental income. Results from a treatment-effects model indicate that having education loans upon leaving college is negatively related to postcollege net worth, financial assets, nonfinancial assets, and value of primary housing. Furthermore, having education loans also has an additional negative link to the value of net worth among Black young adults. The relationship between the amount of education loans and wealth accumulation is not statistically significant among those with outstanding loans. The study findings indicate the importance of developing alternative approaches, instead of additional loans and other credits, to meet the financial needs of college students.
Hat tip to Inside Higher Ed.
Monday, May 23, 2016
Sixth Annual Western Regional Legal Writing Conference
University of the Pacific – McGeorge School of Law
August 5&6, 2016
Awakening the Force: LRW and the Development of Professional Identity
We have finalized the schedule for the Sixth Annual Western Regional Legal Writing Conference and are pleased to welcome you to visit our registration webpage to complete your free registration for the conference. We have a fantastic lineup of speakers and panels from all over the U.S. The registration webpage provides helpful information about the program schedule, directions, hotels and parking for the conference. Here’s a handy link to the webpage: http://go.mcgeorge.edu/wrlwc. We will be offering California CLE credits at a nominal cost for any of you interested in obtaining CLE credits for your attendance.
We hope you are able to join us for the conference. Please do not hesitate to contact me or Hether Macfarlane if you have questions about the conference. We’re looking forward to seeing you in August.
In a feature on my law school’s website, a group of 2016 grads tell us what they will miss about law school and what advice they offer to new students. I think that their responses are typical of students at most happy law schools.
As we finish up final grading, maybe wishing that our classes had been more effective, it helps to read some positive messages from our students. You can access their words here.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Teaching Remedial Problem-Solving Skills to a Law School's Underperforming Students by John F. Murphy
Yesterday, Jim had a post on a legal education symposium in the Nevada Law Journal. Today, I will feature one of those articles.
"This article describes a course called the 'Art of Lawyering' developed by the Texas A&M University School of Law to help the bottom quarter of the 2L class develop the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills they should have learned in their first year of law school. Students in the bottom quarter of the class at the beginning of their 2L year are most at risk for failing the bar exam after graduation. The Art of Lawyering gives these students the structural framework necessary to solve problems like a lawyer, improve their performance in law school, and pass the bar exam.
The course, in its current iteration, is remarkably effective, producing a significant increase in students’ grade-point averages. This article describes the theory, methods, and resources behind the course, and it includes a detailed lesson plan so that other schools can replicate the course and realize similar success."
"However, students with lower admissions indicators can learn to perform as well on lawyering tasks as students with higher indicators, but imparting those skills requires additional effort on the part of the academy."
"The ultimate goal of the Art of Lawyering is to identify and remedy whatever deficiencies prevent the students from performing at a higher level. More specifically, the class teaches students to solve problems the way lawyers solve problems, and apply those techniques to law school exams, the bar exam, and, eventually, the practice of law. The class is not strictly academic support; nor is it a rehash of the 1L legal analysis, research, and writing (LARW) classes. But it does combine aspects of both of those classes."
"The Art of Lawyering’s basic plan is simple: the students solve problem after problem of increasing complexity. Repetition is the crux of the course’s method; the more problems the class can work through, the better. Unlike the five or six problems spread over two semesters in first-year legal analysis and writing classes, Art of Lawyering students write twenty or more memos in a single semester. The memos are shorter and less complex than a full-blown LARW office memo, but brevity means more memos and more opportunities to work through the problem-solving process—and less time grading for the professor."
"The problem-solving process taught in the Art of Lawyering has six steps: (1) Identify the issue or the call of the question; (2) Identify the applicable rule or rules; (3) Parse the rule into its component parts—usually elements or factors or a combination of the two; (4) Match the hypothetical facts to the parts of the rule. What part of the rule does a given fact “trigger” or implicate? Students should attempt to “find a home” for every fact; that is, identify the part or parts of the rule that are conceivably relevant to that fact. If a fact has no “home,” it is probably irrelevant; (5) Write a rule-based analysis—that is, the parts of the rule should dictate the writing’s structure. Discuss one part of the rule at a time, and discuss all of the facts relevant to that part of the rule before moving onto the next; (6) Draw an ultimate conclusion only after completing the first five steps. Writing is a form of thinking, and a conclusion is more likely to be correct if drawn after the bulk of the writing process is complete."
"While underperforming students struggle with all six steps, the third and fourth are the most troublesome—largely because the students skip these steps altogether and go directly from identifying the rule to writing an application. Therefore, the Art of Lawyering emphasizes steps three and four."
Professor Murphy then goes into detail on how he and his colleagues teach the course.
I underlined the passage above because it states the same position I have been advocating for several years--that law schools can help students with poor educational backgrounds do significantly better in law school. (here) Legal education reform will help all students, but it will help those who come from poor educational backgrounds the most.
Professor Murphy has also presented an excellent problem-solving model. Of course, genius is in the details so you need to read the entire article.
If law schools are going to continue to accept students with low indicators, they need to better educate those students. Law schools can't make every student an effective lawyer, but they can do a much better job with many of their pupils.
Here are three questions that employers may pose to your students:
What is your greatest weakness?
What are you look for in terms of salary?
If you were confronted by Situation X or Situation Y, what would you do?
Students need to be prepared with good answers, which may not be the answers they think would be good. At Daily Worth (here), you can find helpful advice.
These are papers published in the most recent edition of the Nevada Law Journal relating to a symposium held at UNLV/William Boyd School of Law in the fall of 2014 on legal education during a time of change. Several of these articles will no doubt be of interest to our readers.
Symposium: Legal Education in a Time of Change: Challenges and Opportunities. 16 Nev. L.J. 143-274 (2015).
Olympia Duhart and Ruben J. Garcia, With Every Curse There Comes a Wish: Legal Education in a Time of Change, 16 Nev. L.J. 143 (2015).
Jennifer Lee Koh and Anna Welch, Integrating Skills and Collaborating Across Law Schools: An Example From Immigration Law, 16 Nev. L.J. 147 (2015).
Abstract: This Article provides an example of the ways in which doctrinal courses across the law school curriculum can both deepen students’ understanding of substantive law while also exposing them to the realities of legal practice. It discusses the design and implementation of introductory Immigration Law courses as taught at two different law schools, Western State College of Law in Fullerton, California and the University of Maine Law School in Portland, Maine. Although the courses took place on opposite coasts and did not engage in a visible or formal partnership, the authors deliberately planned the courses in close collaboration with one another behind the scenes. In doing so, the courses shared the explicit goal of increasing students’ exposure to practical lawyering skills while reinforcing students’ understanding of substantive immigration laws.
John F. Murphy, Teaching Remedial Problem-Solving Skills to a Law School's Underperforming Students, 16 Nev. L.J. 173 (2015).
Abstract: This article describes a course called the “Art of Lawyering” developed by the Texas A&M University School of Law to help the bottom quarter of the 2L class develop the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills they should have learned in the first year of law school. Students in the bottom quarter of the class at the beginning of their 2L year are most at risk for failing the bar exam after graduation. The Art of Lawyering gives these students the structural framework necessary to solve problems like a lawyer, improve their performance in law school, and pass the bar exam. The course, in its current iteration, is remarkably effective, producing a significant increase in students’ grade-point averages. This article describes the theory, methods, and resources behind the course, and it includes a detailed lesson plan so that other schools can replicate the course and realize similar success.
Michael L. Perlin, and Alison J. Lynch, How Teaching About Therapeutic Jurisprudence can be a Tool of Social Justice, and Lead Law Students to Personally and Socially Rewarding Careers: Sexuality and Disability as a Case Example, 16 Nev. L.J. 209 (2015).
Rebecca Roiphe, Tilting at Stratification: Against a Divide in Legal Education, 16 Nev. L.J. 227 (2015).
George Critchlow, Brooks Holland and Olympia Duhart, The Call for Lawyers Committed to Social Justice to Champion Accessible Legal Services Through Innovative Legal Education. 16 Nev. L.J. 251 (2015).