Monday, February 12, 2018

Duke's incoming law dean praises practical legal skills training

In this interview published in the legal tech news blog, Duke's new law dean Karen "Kerry" Abrams praises the school's clinical and practice-oriented offerings. In particular, Dean Abrams - who will be leaving UVA to join Duke at the end of the academic year - noted the excellent partnerships forged between the clinics and the local business and tech communities.  You can read the full interview with incoming Dean Abrams here.


February 12, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

CALL FOR NOMINATIONS: Teresa Godwin Phelps Scholarship Award for Works Published in 2017


Teresa Godwin Phelps Scholarship Award

for Works Published in 2017

Award Criteria

This award honors and draws attention to individual works of outstanding scholarship specific to the legal writing discipline that are published in a given calendar year. The award is meant to set aspirational standards for others who produce scholarship in the field. The award is not meant to honor instructional materials, such as textbooks.

In making an award, the selection committee and the LWI Board will focus solely on whether an individual work is specific to the discipline of legal writing and on whether it makes an outstanding contribution to scholarship in the discipline. Neither the selection committee nor the Board will consider the author’s long-term contributions to the field or contributions in service, program design, teaching, or improving status for the legal writing field. 

The selection committee may recommend, and the Board may give, more than one award for any given year. 

Eligible works

To be eligible for this year’s award, an article or book must have been published in its final form in 2017 and must be nominated through the process described below. Textbooks and similar instructional materials are not eligible.

The publication year assigned by the publisher determines eligibility, regardless of whether the work is actually available in that year. However, if the final form of the work is not actually available to the public in the year of its official publication date, and if, as a result, the selection committee lacks time to consider the work before making the award(s) for that year, the selection committee may evaluate the work for an award in the following year, despite the official publication year.


1. A draft of an article is posted on SSRN in October 2016 and the final form of the article is published in print by a law review. The law review’s issue is dated February 2017. The article is eligible for consideration for an award for works published in 2017.  

2.  A law review has a “Fall 2017” issue, but the law review is running behind and does not actually publish that issue, either in print or online, until March 2018. In this instance, the article is eligible for either an award for works published in 2017 or an award for works published in 2018, but not both. If time permits, the selection committee will consider the article for an award for 2017 publications. If time does not so permit, the committee will roll it over and consider it next year for an award for 2018 publications, despite its official publication date. 

Eligible authors

Any person, except a member of the current selection committee, is eligible to win the award. The author’s faculty status, level of experience, or area(s) of teaching will not be taken into account. Members of the current selection committee are Mary Beth Beazley, Lisa Eichhorn, Elizabeth Fajans, Lucy Jewel, and Teri McMurtry-Chubb. 

Nomination Deadline and Process  

For works published in 2017, the nomination deadline is March 31, 2018.  Please email nominations to

 Nominations must be in writing, must briefly summarize the reasons for the nomination, must provide a copy of or link to the nominated work, and must be received by the deadline above. The selection committee will not accept nominations by the author of the nominated work or by any member of the selection committee.

 The LWI Board plans to announce the Phelps Award winner(s) by July 2018.

 Questions?  Please contact Lisa Eichhorn, chair of the selection committee, at

(Scott Fruehwald) (hat tip: Lucy Jewel)


February 12, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Impact of Individualized Feedback on Law Student Performance

Here is a recent article demonstrating the importance of formative feedback on law school learning:

The Impact of Individualized Feedback on Law Student Performance by Daniel Schwarcz and Dion Farganis.


"For well over a century, first-year law students have typically not received any individualized feedback in their core 'doctrinal' classes other than their grades on final exams. Although critics have long assailed this pedagogical model, remarkably limited empirical evidence exists regarding the extent to which increased feedback improves law students’ outcomes. This article helps fill this gap by focusing on a natural experiment at the University of Minnesota Law School. The natural experiment arises from the assignment of first-year law students to one of several 'sections,' each of which is taught by a common slate of professors. A random subset of these professors provides students with individualized feedback other than their final grades. Meanwhile, students in two different sections are occasionally grouped together in a 'double-section' first-year class. We find that in these double-section classes, students in sections that have previously or concurrently had a professor who provides individualized feedback consistently outperform students in sections that have not received any such feedback. The effect is both statistically significant and hardly trivial in magnitude, approaching about one-third of a grade increment after controlling for students’ LSAT scores, undergraduate GPA, gender, race, and country of birth. This effect corresponds to a 3.7-point increase in students’ LSAT scores in our model. Additionally, the positive impact of feedback is stronger among students whose combined LSAT score and undergraduate GPA fall below the median at the University of Minnesota Law School. These findings substantially advance the literature on law school pedagogy, demonstrating that individualized feedback in a single class during the first year of law school can improve law students’ exam quality in all their other classes. In light of the broader literature on the importance of formative feedback in effective teaching, these findings suggest that, at a minimum, law schools should systematically provide first-year law students with individualized feedback in at least one “core” doctrinal first-year class before final exams. Doing so would almost certainly have positive distributional consequences and improve the fairness of law school grades. It would also likely promote students’ acquisition of relevant legal skills. Finally, this reform would help implement the American Bar Association’s recent requirement that law schools utilize formative assessment methods in their curricula."

I would like to emphasize two points I underlined above.  First, feedback helped underperforming students more than those above the median.  Second, the formative feedback helped students in all their classes.

This article and the case study of formative assessment by Deborah Jones Merritt, Ruth Colker, Ellen E. Deason, Monte Smith, and Abigail Shoben (here) demonstrate how much formative assessment in a single law school class can do for law students.  Imagine what would happen if students had formative assessment in all their first-year classes.  There are many types of formative assessment other than the one used by these studies.  My guess is that a variety of approaches would greatly benefit all students.

(Scott Fruehwald


February 12, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

More on combating digital compulsions

Following up on my post from the other day about Professor Cal Newport and his blog devoted to "attention advocacy," below is a related article from the New York Times on the growing call to people everywhere to "remove every piece of digital interaction that [isn't] critical to their work and lives." Very sound advice that every law prof should follow by banning digital devices from the classroom unless they're being put to a class related use because attention is a bona fide skill we should be cultivating in our students, not undermining. 

 A Call to Cut Back Online Addictions. Pitted Against Just One More Click


February 11, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The evils of the "attention economy business model"

A blog maintained by Georgetown computer science Professor Cal Newport is devoted to "how to perform productive, valuable, and meaningful work in an increasingly distracted digital age." In a recent post called "On the Rise of Digital Addiction Activism" Professor Newport discusses a letter sent by Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which both run investment funds that hold about $2 billion in Apple stock, asking the smartphone maker to address the growing concern that kids are becoming addicted to mobile devices much to their detriment.  In his post, Professor Newport says that blaming Apple is misguided; the real culprits are the companies that traffic in the "attention economy" like Facebook, Instagram, and the like who've created free platforms that are engineered to commandeer the user's attention as much as possible resulting in compulsive, addictive behaviors that leave people feeling "exhausted and unnerved at their perceived loss of autonomy." (Professor Newport explains that smartphone makers are the wrong target for the concerns of Digital Addiction Activists because they merely make the devices used to access addictive platforms rather than actively promoting the "attention economy"). Professor Newport goes on to suggest that a day may come where society decides to treat smartphones like cigarettes insofar as they will be considered too hazardous for developing minds to handle until they reach the age of majority. While an intriguing idea, I'm a bit skeptical that it'll gain widespread acceptance. Nonetheless, Professor Newport's blog is definitely worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the debate about technology use in the classroom and its unintended consequences. 


February 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Legal sector loses 1100 jobs in January

I'm a couple days late in providing our monthly update from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the status of legal sector job growth. But as the headline states, despite a strong economy overall (the recent stock market volatility notwithstanding), the legal sector lost 1100 jobs last month. Here are more details from The American Lawyer:

[T]he legal services industry . . .lost 1,100 jobs in January . . . according to preliminary data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.


The agency’s Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a decline in the number of people employed in legal services in January over the prior month. The monthly BLS data release reported that 1,135,500 people worked in the industry in January, which includes lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries, among other law-related professions. That’s down from 1,136,600 people employed in December, according to BLS. The agency’s data for both December and January is seasonally-adjusted, provisional and could be revised.


The BLS release follows on the heels of another recent employment-related report indicating that summer associate hiring was down in 2017 at the largest firms. Recent data from the National Association for Law Placement showed that summer associate class sizes declined at firms with more than 700 lawyers for the first time since 2012. [See also here]

Read more here.


February 8, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Education seeks input on practical skills training

From the ABA website:

Legal education panel solicits input on teaching skills, testing and expanding access


The Commission on the Future of Legal Education, an initiative of American Bar President Hilarie Bass, held its first open forum Feb. 4 and heard a variety of views on how to reshape legal education in terms of teaching skills, licensing of future lawyers and expanding emphasis on access to justice.


In opening the hearing, Bass, who established the commission in August 2017 when she became president, observed that the panel is chiefly focusing on ideas of “realigning” what law schools are teaching, what bar exams are testing and what law firms are looking for.


The 10-member commission, chaired by Patricia White, dean of the University of Miami School of Law, is planning to make recommendations on specific changes for the methods of training and testing future generations of law students. Over the past few months, commission representatives have met with the Conference of Chief Justices, which consists of the top jurist in each state; the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which administers the bar exam; and others.


The hearing at the 2018 ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver represented the first call for comment from the various stakeholders in legal education. About a dozen responded in oral or written testimony to discuss the three focuses: future skills, access to justice and licensure.


With research indicating that 80 percent of the U.S. population that needs legal services are not receiving them, White observed that developing suggestions on how law schools can assist to “make legal services more accessible” to poor and middle-class Americans is a top priority of the commission. Several individuals testified that developing more clinical components to legal education – either in the third or an additional fourth year – should be considered.


“We need to create a culture looking forward that embraces, celebrates” public interest law on par with any legal job, said Lora Livingston, a Texas state judge and chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants. She added that internships or externships in the third year of law school would “create and enlarge the supply of public interest” law assistance.


Commission member Blake Morant, dean of the George Washington University School of Law in Washington, D.C., highlighted the “forward-looking nature of this commission.” He emphasized another goal is to explore the changes rapidly occurring in the legal profession and recommend how legal education should adapt.

. . . . 

Continue reading here.


February 7, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A new book on global legal clinical education

Professor of Law Emeritus Richard Wilson of Washington College of Law at American University has a new book out called The Global Evolution of Clinical Legal Education: More than a Method published by Cambridge University Press.  It traces the history of clinical legal education in the U.S. to the present as well as covers the current state of clinical pedagogy both here and abroad. The book can be purchased from Cambridge University Press here or via Amazon here. From the publisher's synopsis:

Globally, the methodologies of legal education have not changed in any fundamental way, some methods dating back hundreds of years. Law schools have relied, for too long, on passive learning methods such as lectures or cases. Clinical legal education provides an alternative that is more than just another pedagogical method. It provides a way for students to experience their emerging professional selves, while providing services or projects with poor and underrepresented clients. This book documents both the historical origins of clinical experiments in the earliest days of US university legal education, and the now-global reach of clinical pedagogy as a proven tool for effective training of legal professionals.

  • Comprehensively documents the earliest history of clinical legal education
  • Provides diverse regional views of the development of clinical training in law
  • Includes empirical evidence from the United States on the benefits of clinical legal education


February 7, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New Book Announcement: Understanding and Overcoming Cognitive Biases For Lawyers And Law Students: Becoming a Better Lawyer Through Cognitive Science

Understanding and Overcoming Cognitive Biases For Lawyers And Law Students: Becoming a Better Lawyer Through Cognitive Science by E. Scott Fruehwald.  My new book on cognitive biases for lawyers and law students has just appeared on Amazon.  It will be available from other outlets shortly.


Did you know that cognitive biases can affect your relationships with clients? Do you know the most important cognitive bias for defense attorneys in jury trials? Do you know why traditional sexual harassment training doesn’t work? Did you know that it is easy to make an ethical violation, even if you didn’t intend to? Did you know that cognitive biases can lead to malpractice suits?

This book helps lawyers and future lawyers understand the cognitive biases that can affect their law practices. It introduces lawyers to cognitive biases and how to overcome them. It demonstrates how to think more clearly and how to avoid being manipulated by others through cognitive biases. It also explains how you can use cognitive biases in persuasion. Finally, it demonstrates how attorneys can avoid unconscious ethical lapses.

The first part of this book (Chapters 1–5) introduces cognitive biases. It will help you understand these biases, show how these biases work in the law and legal profession, and give exercises so that you can develop the ability to overcome your cognitive biases. Chapter 6 will go into more depth by showing how the cognitive biases fit into a model of moral reasoning. Chapter 7 will demonstrate how cognitive biases affect legal ethics (behavioral legal ethics). Chapter 8 will present special problems concerning cognitive biases and the legal profession. Chapter 9 will contain additional exercises on cognitive biases in general, and Chapter 10 contains review exercises focused on lawyers and the practice of law.

(Scott Fruehwald)





February 6, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 5, 2018

American University seeking to hire faculty "practitioners in residence"

If you've been looking to make the jump from practice to academia, this post is calling your name. Here are the details:

American University, Washington College of Law is seeking applications for Practitioners-in-Residence for academic year 2018-19 in four of our in-house clinics: Community and Economic Development Clinic, Domestic Violence Clinic, Federal Taxation Clinic, and International Human Rights Law Clinic. American University’s in-house, “live-client” Clinical Program, comprising ten (10) in-house clinics and serving approximately 220 students per year, is respected for its leadership in scholarship, development of clinical methodology, contributions to increasing access to justice for under-served clients and breadth of offerings.


The Practitioner-in-Residence Program, created in 1998, is a program designed to train lawyers or entry-level clinicians interested in becoming clinical teachers in the practice and theory of clinical legal education.  Many graduates of the Practitioners-in-Residence program (over 25) have gone on to tenure-track teaching positions at other law schools. Practitioners supervise student casework, co-teach weekly clinic seminars and case rounds, and engage in course planning and preparation with the clinic’s tenured faculty. They also teach a course outside of the clinical curriculum.  The Practitioner-in-Residence Program provides full-year training in clinical theory and methodology and a writing workshop designed to assist Practitioners in the development of their clinical and doctrinal scholarship.


Minimum qualifications include a JD degree, outstanding academic record, three years’ experience as a lawyer and membership in a state bar. The salary for the position is $90,000. American University is an EEO\AA employer committed to a diverse faculty, staff and student body.


Applications that include a curriculum vitae and cover letter should be submitted online via the InterFolio portal for the positions as follows:


Community and Economic Development Clinic:


Domestic Violence Clinic:


Federal Tax Clinic:


International Human Rights Clinic:


 Please contact Brian Cofilll, Faculty Coordinator, at  or (202-274-4139) if you have any general questions regarding the application process and Professor Robert Dinerstein, Associate Dean for Experiential Education, for any other questions about the positions. The positions will remain open until filled.


American University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution that operates in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.  The university does not  discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, personal appearance, gender identity and expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, veteran status, an individual’s genetic information or any other bases under federal or local laws (collectively “Protected Bases”) in its programs and activities. American University is a tobacco- and smoke-free campus.”


February 5, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sending greetings and well-wishes to our co-blogger Lou

Our fellow blogger Professor Lou Sirico is the spiritual glue of the Legal Skills Prof Blog (he and Scott kept the whole thing together last year while I was overwhelmed with classroom responsibilities during my visitorship at USAFA). So the staff here likes to take time now and again to let him know we're all thinking of him and wishing him all the best during his recovery at home.

Take care, Lou, and rest easy. We've got things under control for now.

- The staff at the Legal Skills Prof Blog.

February 4, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Is a new, free AI tool from ROSS Intelligence a legal research game changer?

Law and tech guru Robert Ambrogi has a post on his LawSites blog about a new Artificial Intelligence legal research tool being released to the public free of charge by ROSS Intelligence (where "AI meets legal research").  As Mr. Ambrogi notes in the post, ROSS has been on a capital funding and staffing tear recently including adding to its team the outgoing dean at Northwestern School of Law, Daniel Rodriguez, who'll be serving as an advisor with responsibility for law school outreach (i.e. if you're a librarian or LRW prof, I'm guessing Dean Rodriquez will be paying you a visit soon). 

The new ROSS product is called EVA and it's like a supercharged Shepards/Keycite service that lets you upload your legal brief to the platform and will:

  • Tell you whether the cases in your brief are still good law.
  • Add hyperlinks for all the cases in your brief. 
  • In addition, EVA will - get this - find other cases containing similar language to the ones cited in your brief.

Did I mention that it's free? The only thing apparently missing is that EVA doesn't put all your cites into perfect Bluebook form (I mean, what kind of two-bit, free artificial intelligence, ground-breaking legal research platform is this anyway? Geez).  Mr. Ambrogi notes in his extensive post that so far he's only seen a demo of EVA and hasn't yet had the chance to road test it. So here's an excerpt of his description of the demo he witnessed regarding the cite-checking function:

Within seconds of uploading [a] brief, EVA generates an analysis of all the cases, creating a list of the cases and giving each case a label saying whether it is still valid or has been overruled, criticized, questioned or superseded by a subsequent cases. In this way, you can quickly see which cases within the brief have negative subsequent treatments.

And here's how Mr. Ambrogi describes the feature that searches for cases with "similar language":

As you read through the brief on EVA, you may come across a passage for which you would like to find other supporting cases or see what other cases say about that issue. To do this, highlight the language in the brief and click the option “Find Similar Language.” EVA generates a list of cases with similar language, showing the case name and the relevant snippet of text. Click on any result to go to the full case, and you are taken directly to the point in the case where the matching language is found.

If you can't tell already, EVA sounds like it's going to be a big development in the world of legal research. That means you need to check out Mr. Ambrogi's full review at LawSites here.

Hat tip to Associate's Mind.


February 4, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Five Things I Wish I knew When I Started Teaching"

That's the name of a post by Professor Carl Hendrick at a U.K. based blog called chronotope (covering "education, research and stuff"). Professor Hendrick is also author of a book called What Does This Look Like In The Classroom?: Bridging The Gap Between Research And PracticePerhaps you'll agree, as I do, that Professor Hendrick's "five things" is a pretty good shortlist of best practices for the classroom that we all need to consult from time to time to keep our teaching on track. As for me, I especially struggle with the one about not spending more time providing written feedback on assignments than my students do reading and implementing it. Unfortunately, I feel as if I lose that battle more often than I win it. 

The following is the list though it's highly worthwhile to check out the article itself for Professor Hendrick's full explanation about why each of these principles is so key to effective teaching:

  1. Motivation doesn’t always lead to achievement, but achievement often leads to motivation.
  2. Just because students are engaged doesn’t mean they’re learning anything.
  3. Marking and feedback are not the same thing.
  4. Feedback should be more work for the recipient than the donor.
  5. (a) The steps needed to achieve a skill may look very different to the final skill itself.
  6. (b)There is no such thing as developing a ‘general’ skill (i.e. you can't, for example, teach critical thinking as a discrete skill - it needs to be taught and learned in a context).


February 4, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 2, 2018

Registration now open for the Transactional Clinical Conference in April

Here are the details:

The 2018 Transactional Clinical Conference (TCC)  will be held before the AALS Clinic conference on April 27 and 28 at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law in in Chicago.  Registration is now open at the conference website:  The theme for this year's conference is "Breaking Barriers to Entrepreneurship" and we invite proposals for workshops, panels or posters.


 We look forward to seeing you in Chicago!


2018 TCC Planning Committee 

Heather Harper (IIT Chicago-Kent)
Esther Barron (Northwestern)
Priya Baskaran (WVU)
Bill Kell (Berkeley)
Lynnise Pantin (BC)
Jennifer Prusak (Indiana)
Vicki Phillips (American)
Steve Reed (Northwestern)


February 2, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The end of an era - Xerox is no more

For older Americans, especially those who are lawyers, accountants and other types of office workers, a Xerox machine was a workplace staple just like file cabinets, Wite-Out and the proverbial watercooler. It was such a ubiquitous part of the typical office environment that everyone used the name Xerox as a verb to mean "photocopy" just like everyone today uses Google to mean "internet search." But that came to an abrupt end today as the Xerox corporation was purchased by Fujifilm Holdings of Japan and thus will cease to exist as a separate entity. Henceforth, to "Xerox" something enters the realm of archaic expressions that will likely only turn up in crossword puzzles, trivia contests and the game show Jeopardy.  It's an opportunity to reflect on the ethereal nature of technology and how the ones we take for granted today because they are so ubiquitous will in all likelihood be replaced by something completely unexpected.  And it'll happen much sooner than we think. Even the venerable Google will likely one day go the way of telegrams and transistor radios though that may seem hard to picture right now. 

Read all about the end of the Xerox era at the New York Times here.


February 2, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Law School Transparency Report

Law School Transparency, A Way Forward: Transparency in 2018

Executive Summary

We recommend that the ABA and law schools take the following steps to improve legal education for the benefit of students, the legal profession, and the public.

1. Young Lawyer Representation in Accreditation

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar should add two young lawyers to its Council in 2018.
The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar should change its bylaws to designate two of 15 at-large Council positions to young lawyers.

2. Increased Data Transparency

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, using authority it already has under the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, should require schools to report as part of the Section’s annual questionnaire, and for the Section and schools to provide on their websites, (1) disaggregated borrowing data, including subcategories by race and gender; (2) disaggregated data on the amount of tuition paid by class year (1L or upper-level), race/ethnicity, and gender; (3) data on applicants and scholarships by gender and, to the extent the Section does not do so already, by race/ethnicity; (4) data on J.D. program completion and bar passage success.

3. User-Friendly Data Presentation

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar should simplify the Employment Summary Report, which includes graduate employment data.
The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar should simplify and reorganize the Standard 509 Information Report, which includes data related to admissions, attrition, bar passage, price, curricular offerings, diversity, faculty, refunds, and scholarships.

4. Disclosures at Time of Admission

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar should require law schools to provide every admitted law student a copy of the Standard 509 Information Report and Employment Summary Report as part of each student’s admissions offer.

5. Voluntary Disclosures by Law School

Every ABA-approved law school should voluntarily publish its school-specific NALP Report each year.

(Scott Fruehwald)

February 1, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)