Saturday, April 28, 2018
The Innovation Clinic focuses on transactional work by representing start-up ventures. The IC works closely with the University’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Details about the available position can be found here in addition to the advertisement below.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW SCHOOL is seeking qualified applicants for a full-time position teaching in a transactional clinic providing legal services for start-up ventures in the innovation sector. The appointment for the Bluhm-Helfand Director of the Innovation Clinic would begin during the 2018-19 academic year, with a strong preference for beginning on July 1, 2018. The position would also involve teaching a related seminar and/or clinical skills courses.
The position would include an appointment as Lecturer or an appointment to the clinical professor track, depending on experience and qualifications. Candidates must have a J.D., must have at least two years of relevant experience, and must be admitted to or eligible for admission to the Illinois bar. Candidates who teach in a law school legal clinic or who have prior experience supervising or teaching law students or other attorneys are strongly preferred and will be considered for appointment to the clinical professor track. Excellent writing, editing, and supervision skills are required. We value candidates who will contribute diverse backgrounds and perspectives that will enrich and improve student experiences and the Law School's intellectual culture.
Each candidate should submit a curriculum vita or resume, a list of references, a legal writing sample, a law school transcript, a cover letter that includes a detailed description of the candidate’s relevant practice experience and teaching experience, and course evaluations from prior teaching experience if any. Other material relevant to your candidacy may be included as well. Candidates must apply online and upload application material at:https://academiccareers.uchicago.edu/applicants/Central?quickFind=55518, for consideration for a Lecturer position, and at https://academiccareers.uchicago.edu/applicants/Central?quickFind=55546, for consideration for the clinical professor track position. All application material must be received by May 21, 2018.
The University of Chicago is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity/Disabled/Veterans Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, status as an individual with a disability, protected veteran status, genetic information, or other protected classes under the law. For additional information please see the University's Notice of Nondiscrimination at http://www.uchicago.edu/about/non_discrimination_statement/. Job seekers in need of a reasonable accommodation to complete the application process should call 773-702-0287 or emailACOppAdministrator@uchicago.edu with their request.
Over at the Best Practices for Legal Education Blog, former CLEA President Professor Robert Kuehn has a key post (complete with several helpful graphs) that takes a snapshot of student enrollment trends in clinical and other experiential-type coursework at all accredited ABA law schools since 2005 when the ABA implemented a "professional skills" curricular requirement. Professor Kuehn observes that total enrollment in clinical courses, externships and practice simulation courses has increased by almost 25% in the past 10 years. His review of the data also responds to those critics who assert that one explanation for the recent nationwide downturn in bar passage rates is that students have been diverted away from more traditional doctrinal coursework toward experiential classes. But Professor Kuehn refutes that by offering data that shows bar passage rates were in fact pretty stable from 2006 to 2013, a period during which student enrollment in experiential courses increased by more than 50%.
Professor Kuehn says that a full length article discussing this data in more detail is forthcoming from himself and co-author Professor David Moss (Wayne State). In the meantime, however, he's providing the aforementioned teaser here.
Friday, April 27, 2018
This is a new article by Professors Colleen Shanahan (Temple), Jeffrey Selbin (UC Berkeley), Alyx Mark (American Bar Foundation) and Anna Carpenter (Tulsa) that can be found at 92 Tul. L. Rev. 547 (2018) and here on SSRN. From the abstract:
Legal education reformers have long argued that law school clinics address two related needs: first, clinics teach students to be lawyers; and second, clinics serve low-income clients. In clinics, so the argument goes, law students working under the close supervision of faculty members learn the requisite skills to be good practitioners and professionals. In turn, clinical law students serve clients with civil and criminal justice needs that would otherwise go unmet.
Though we have these laudable teaching and service goals — and a vast literature describing the role of clinics in both the teaching and service dimensions — we have scant empirical evidence about whether and how clinics achieve these goals. We know from studies that law students value clinics, but do clinics prepare them to be lawyers? We also know from surveys that clinics provide hundreds of thousands of hours of free legal aid in low-income communities, but how well do clinic students serve clients?
These are big questions across a complex field and set of practices that cannot be answered by a single study. Nevertheless, we report here findings from a large data set of cases that shed some light on the teaching-service promise of law school clinics. Analyzing thousands of unemployment insurance cases involving different types of representation, we are able to compare clinical law students’ use of legal procedures and outcomes to those of experienced attorneys in cases in the same court.
We find that clinical law students behave very similarly to practicing attorneys in their use of legal procedures. Their clients also experience very similar case outcomes to clients of practicing attorneys. Though further research is needed on the impact of law school clinics in the teaching and service dimensions, our findings are consistent with claims that law school clinics help prepare students to be practicing lawyers and to serve low-income clients as well as lawyers do.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
Dear Dean Rosenbury,
I read your comments concerning The University of Florida Levin College of Law's problems on the February Florida bar. [From Daily Business Review, "The University of Florida Levin College of Law, for instance, came in last on the February exam with a 31.8 percent success rate. A statement attributed to its dean, Laura A. Rosenbury, called the “shocking” results “a clear wake-up call.” “The results are utterly unacceptable given the caliber of our students and the quality of their education,” according to the email. “The efforts we undertook prior to the February bar exam were clearly insufficient. We will be increasing the support we provide to the students taking the July 2018 bar exam. We have a long tradition at UF Law of respecting our students’ autonomy and control over the courses they take. Given these shocking and disheartening results, we are rethinking this approach and doubling down on our intervention strategy.”] Below are my suggestions on how to improve your bar passage rate.
You don't have to reinvent the wheel to improve your bar passage rate. There is plenty of research out there on how to improve law student performance. In addition, law professors have written many casebooks and texts that reflect the new learning on legal education.
As FIU Dean Tawia Ansah declared, “You can take really good bar-prep courses … but if the leadup to that isn’t sufficient, it’s going to show up in the results.” More specifically, educational research has demonstrated that you need active learning during all three years of law school, including the use of problem-solving exercises and frequent formative assessment, especially in the first year. Law schools also need to help students improve their metacognitive skills. Students particularly need to change their study skills. For example, pacing learning throughout the semester and self-testing instead of just rereading help both retention of knowledge and the ability to use that knowledge. I have discussed active learning and metacognition in depth in my article How to Help Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Succeed in Law School , 1 Texas A & M Law Review 83 (2013). Moreover, Louis Schulze has written an article about the academic success program at Florida International University (here). Not only will the above techniques help you improve your bar pass rate, they will help you turn out more effective lawyers who are self-directed learners.
There are many books on teaching in general. I highly recommend Susan A. Ambrose et.al., How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (2010). Every law professor should read this book.
Establishing a more effective teaching program is not as hard as it sounds because numerous authors have written casebooks and other texts for this purpose. Foremost among these is the Context and Practice Series from Carolina Academic Press. The books in this series are casebooks, which provide opportunities for feedback, problem-solving exercises, self-directed learning strategies, and materials on professional development. CAP also has a Skills & Values Series, which professors can use as a skills supplement to their favorite casebook. Wolters Kluwer has developed The Law Simulation Series, and West Academic has four series to help students develop skills. (here)
Law schools can give their students a head start by having them read books that develop their foundational cognitive skills during the summer before law school. I have written two books for this purpose: Developing Your Professional Identity: Creating Your Inner Lawyer (2015) and Think Like a Lawyer: Legal Reasoning for Law Students and Business Professionals (2014). My book A Companion to Torts: How to Think Like a Torts Lawyer (2015) helps students develop legal reasoning and problem-solving skills within a torts context.
Best of luck with improving your bar pass rate.
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Following up on a recent report from the ABA on the employment stats for the class of 2017 (which overall fared a bit better than the previous class due in part to fewer students chasing the available jobs), Law.com has taken the data and teased out some additional info in order to assess how individual schools stacked up against their peers. Specifically, Law.com has analyzed the job data in terms of which schools had the highest percentage of students obtaining jobs where bar passage is a requirement; which schools have performed the weakest in that regard; which schools are sending the most students into federal clerkships; into large firm jobs; and government and public interest jobs. Click here for a link to a series of charts prepared by Law.com that shows the following:
- Schools ranked # 1 to # 204 when it comes to placing students in full time, longterm jobs where bar passage is required (and the jobs are not funded by the schools themselves).
- Schools ranked # 1 to # 204 when it comes to placing students in either full time jobs where bar passage is required or in so-called "JD Advantage" jobs.
- The top schools ranked in terms of the highest percentage of students who are employed in school-funded jobs.
- Schools ranked in terms of highest percentage of graduates who had not found work more than 10 months after graduation.
- Schools ranked in terms of highest percentage who were underemployed 10 months after graduation (because they were either unemployed, working in temporary or part-time jobs ,or non-professional jobs).
Florida International University has scored highest on the Florida, February bar exam. Daily Business Review, Why FIU Dominates the Florida Bar Exam
“You can take really good bar-prep courses … but if the leadup to that isn’t sufficient, it’s going to show up in the results,” said [Dean] Ansah, a Columbia University graduate who teaches contracts, international business transactions, conflict of laws, professional responsibility and jurisprudence/legal theory. “I think our students are doing well on the bar because they’re learning how to write well and communicate well, and they’re learning communication skills throughout the program.”
"At the heart of FIU’s law curriculum is its mandatory legal skills and values program with three prongs over three semesters."
As this blog's readers know, I have talked about FIU's successful bar pass rate many times, mainly because they have scored highest many times. The reason for their success is that they draw on general educational scholarship to develop the most effective teaching and learning approaches. I use these approaches in my book, A Companion to Torts: How to Think Like a Torts Lawyer.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Campbell Law School of Raleigh, North Carolina has announced it is joining the list of law schools to launch a 3+3 program in cooperation with Meredith College that will allow students to obtain their undergrad and J.D. degrees in 6 years rather than 7 (thus saving participants some not so insignificant tuition costs). From Campbell's press release:
Campbell Law School and Meredith College have partnered to create an accelerated dual degree option for students seeking to earn undergraduate and juris doctor degrees in record time. Under the 3+3 accelerated dual degree program, Meredith College students can earn an undergraduate degree and a juris doctor from Campbell Law in six years rather than seven, saving both time and money.
The student will spend three years at Meredith College, completing all general education requirements and the coursework for her major. In her fourth year, the student will begin study at Campbell Law, and the credits earned during that year will complete her Meredith degree while counting towards the law degree. Students can continue to live on campus at Meredith during this fourth year.
There are a wide variety of majors at Meredith that students could complete in order to do the 3+3 program.
“This is a unique pathway for the top Meredith students to focus on law school early in their collegiate careers,” said Campbell Law Dean J. Rich Leonard.
Meredith College has a proven track record of preparing students for success in law school, according to Assistant Professor of Political Science Whitney Ross Manzo, Meredith’s pre-law adviser. Manzo will serve as the 3+3 program coordinator.
“Meredith’s general education program, which requires writing intensive courses, information literacy, and oral communication, builds skills that law schools want and that prepare our students for success in any career,” said Manzo. “Meredith also has a vast network of alumnae who are practicing lawyers or students in law school who want to help our current students succeed.”
Meredith and Campbell Law School share many characteristics that make this partnership attractive to students. Both schools offer small class sizes and supportive faculty, along with all the benefits of their location in the heart of North Carolina’s capital city.
Meredith Provost Matthew Poslusny said the new partnership with Campbell Law School underscores the College’s commitment to the professional preparation of its students.
“The 3+3 program partnership will allow our students to complete their law degree as seamlessly as possible,” said Poslusny. “Being able to attend a strong law school that is so near to where they have been obtaining their undergraduate degree seems like a perfect fit.”
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Continue reading here.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
The good news is that the percentage of law students finding full time, bar passage required employment following graduation has gone up almost 3% since last year. The bad news is that it's due to a smaller pool of job applicants since the number of available jobs has actually declined. You can read the ABA report here while Law.com has a summary here. An excerpt from the latter:
The class of 2017 posted gains in jobs requiring a law degree, but the number of jobs in which a law degree offers an advantage declined significantly.
The employment picture for new law graduates improved in 2017, marking the fourth straight year that a higher percentage of fresh J.D.s found legal jobs.
More than three-quarters of the class of 2017—75.3 percent—secured full-time, permanent jobs that require bar passage or jobs for which a law degree offers an advantage, within 10 months of leaving campus, according to new national figures released Friday by the American Bar Association. That’s up from 72.6 percent from the previous graduating class.
But like the previous three years, that employment gain resulted from a significantly smaller pool of law graduates entering the job market, not from growth in the number of entry-level legal jobs. Slightly fewer than 35,000 people graduated from ABA-accredited law schools in 2017. That’s a nearly 6 percent decline from the more than 37,000 law graduates in 2016.
The biggest gains were among traditional attorney jobs for which bar admission is required. The actual number of those jobs increased from the previous year, albeit slightly. Nearly 69 percent of 2017 law graduates found those jobs, up from 64.5 percent in 2016.
The percentage of graduates in full-time, long-term bar pass required jobs—which are often viewed as the gold standard for law jobs, and the positions most sought after—went from 61.8 percent in 2016 to 66.2 percent in 2017, a 4.4 percent increase.
Jobs for which a law degree offers an advantage did not see similar growth, however. Just 11.8 percent of 2017 graduates landed in those positions within 10 months, down from 14.1 percent the previous year, according to the ABA. In actual numbers, there were 1,100 fewer J.D.-advantage jobs reported.
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Continue reading here.
As the title implies, this is a list of skills you've learned in law school that can help you make the jump to another career outside of the law. The list is a valuable reminder that many of these skills are ones you might take for granted because they're considered par for the course in law school yet they are often highly valued outside that context. From the career counseling website the balance careers.com:
- Clear thinking
- Clear writing
- Attention to detail
- Dealing with difficult people and situations
- A great work ethic
- Identifying and solving problems
- Public speaking
- Synthesizing ideas
- Working with others
Read the full details here.
Friday, April 20, 2018
Law firm Reed Smith launches program to train summer associates to develop technologies to better deliver legal services
It's being touted as a "first of its kind" program in which Philadelphia based law firm Reed Smith will offer the opportunity to a small number of summer associates to develop technologies that improve the delivery of legal services. The new initiative called "The Legal Technology Summer Associate Program" saw the firm recruiting summer hires from law schools that have a curriculum strongly focused on legal technology. Here's more from the press release published on Reed Smith's website:
Global law firm Reed Smith today announced the launch of its Legal Technology Summer Associate Program, a new summer program that combines the traditional summer legal experience with a technology focus where associates will work with Reed Smith attorneys and the firm’s Innovation Team to develop creative and innovative, technology-driven solutions.
The associates will split their time between developing legal skills and knowledge, and working with the firm's Practice Innovation Team. In addition to traditional research, writing and other routine summer associate work, the five associates in the inaugural program will work on projects which will enhance legal service delivery through technology. Indicative projects will include an initiative to explore the application of blockchain and smart contract technology to real estate transactions, the development of an automated contract execution platform for clients and the design of an internal knowledge analytics tool. As they conduct their legal work, they will also be expected to consider how technology can assist in improving efficiency and service delivery.
There's a related story with more details here at the American Lawyer.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
U. Miami School of Law offers an "affordable housing practicum" that trains students to be real estate lawyers
Students at U. Miami who are enrolled in the school's Robert Traurig-Greenberg Traurig LL.M. in Real Property Development discuss the program's "affordable housing practicum" here and how it is helping them acquire the practical legal skills needed to work as real estate attorneys upon graduation.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
A sad and disheartening end for a small group of alums from the recently closed school who face substantial student loan debt (although those who withdrew before the school closed may be eligible for debt relief), no jobs, no school, and now all of them have failed the most recent administration of the state bar exam. The Charlotte Observer has more details:
A chaotic year at Charlotte School of Law has given way to a disastrous performance by its graduates on the most recent bar examination, according to newly released state figures.
Eleven recent alumni of the defunct school took the test for the first time in February. All failed.
Among the Charlotte Law graduates who had taken the test before, eight out of 73 passed the most recent exam.
Combined, that gives Charlotte Law an overall passing rate of 9.5 percent — by far the lowest of the state's seven law schools.
Statewide, 43 percent of the in-state law grads passed the exam on the first try, according to figures released by the N.C. Board of Law Examiners. Charlotte Law's performance pulled down the overall passage rate to 29 percent.
Several of the in-state schools saw their overall success rate fall. At UNC Chapel Hill, for example, the combined passing rate dropped from 65 percent in February 2017 to 46 percent this year. A total of 28 UNC law graduates took the most recent exam.
No school fell as far as Charlotte Law, which locked its doors in August. The end came nine months after the uptown school was bounced from the federal student-loan program amid regulatory scrutiny of its bar exam scores and the rigor of its curriculum and admissions — even as the for-profit operation charged more than $40,000 in tuition annually.
Charlotte Law had more graduates sit for the February exam than any other N.C. law school. According to the school's critics, the performance of Charlotte Law's final graduates illustrated the school's basic failings.
"There are many reasons this law school closed, and this is just one of them," said Staci Zaretsky, editor of the blog Above the Law, which first reported the bar results.
"God, that's depressing. At least with Charlotte's closure, the suffering has ended."
Over the weekend, Charlotte attorney Noell Tin posted on his Facebook page that the "zero point zero" passage rate of Charlotte Law's first-time takers reminded him of the movie "Animal House."
On Monday, Tin told the Observer he sympathizes with the local students who have taken on significant student loans and now may not be able to find the jobs and salaries to pay them off.
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Continue reading here.
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Suffolk Law School profs discuss curricular reforms intended to prepare students for "future practice"
There's an interview with Suffolk's Dean Andrew Perlman and Professor Gabriel Teninbaum in the March issue of Thomson Reuter's online magazine Practice Innovations in which they discuss efforts by the school to embrace curricular changes that better prepare students for the future of law practice as envisioned by people like Richard Susskind. Here's the link.
Saturday, April 14, 2018
The two day summit concluded today, Friday, and covered among other topics declining law school enrollments, increasing student loan debt, the need for curricular reform to better prepare students for the practice of law, the stagnant job market and the "justice gap." In other words, the usual suspects. Law.com filed this report:
Law schools have yet to embrace significant structural change despite years of financial and market pressures, said educators at the Summit on the Future of Legal Education and Entry to the Profession in Miami.
Times are troubled for legal education. That’s the tenor of the conversation among legal education leaders from across the nation who have gathered in Miami this week.
At the Summit on the Future of Legal Education and Entry to the Profession, the first panel discussion on Thursday quickly turned to issues of declining law school enrollment, soaring student debt, a stagnant entry-level job market and the justice gap.
“We’re in a perilous moment,” warned James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement during the first panel of the two-day summit, co-sponsored by Florida International University College of Law and the Law School Admission Council. “There is a push-pull between admission offices and the job market.”
With the law school applicant pool finally growing after an eight-year decline, law schools will be tempted to increase enrollment in the fall, risking the recent modest improvements in the entry-level lawyer job market, Leipold said. He pointed to the fact that the actual number of new lawyer positions has continued to contract. Law school graduate employment numbers have improved only because schools have pumped out fewer new lawyers since 2013, he said.
“[Increasing law school enrollment] would be the wrong thing to do,” Leipold said.
The summit drew leaders from each of the major organizations in the law school sphere, including the NALP; the American Bar Association; the Association of American Law Schools; and the National Conference of Bar Examiners, as well as deans and faculty members from a variety of schools.
Participants disagreed early on about how well law schools have changed to address the mounting pressures bearing down on legal education and the challenges students and graduates face.
Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of Accreditation and Admission to the Bar, said that despite years of crisis, law schools have yet to undergo deep structural changes.
“We haven’t really had any major reforms. We should have done it yesterday,” Currier said. “We’ve tinkered around the edges of the fundamental challenges of the business model.”
But law schools have changed with the times, countered Wendy Perdue, dean of the University of Richmond School of Law and president of the AALS. “Law schools are doing a lot that they weren’t doing in 1968,” Perdue said, while acknowledging that many of those changes have increased both the quality and cost of a law degree.
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Continue reading here.
Thursday, April 12, 2018
Looking for a way to stand apart from other candidates during a crowded job interview season? After the interview concludes, send the potential employer a personalized thank you note. Sending a nice thank you note or card (as appropriate) shows a greater degree of appreciation compared to a perfunctory email or - god forbid - a text message (though the author thinks email correspondence is OK, sending an "old timey" letter is more likely calculated to leave a favorable impression on the recipient). It's the extra effort and thoughtfulness that it reflects which makes the difference. Accordingly, here are some tips from Julie Brush, founder of the legal career strategy website the Lawyer Whisperer, for writing the quintessential thank you note:
Sending a thank you note is a must after every meaningful professional encounter. Blow it off and your candidacy could be DOA or your reputation tainted.
Sending a thank you note is a must after every meaningful professional encounter. Blow it off and your candidacy could be DOA or your reputation tainted. A poorly written thank you could produce the same results. So what may seem like a quick and easy afterthought, the content of the thank you—what you say or don’t say—can play a much bigger role than you think. I have counseled scores of legal professionals on the art and skill of saying thank you—and over the years, have learned a great deal about what resonates … and repels employers. So before you put pen to paper or fingers to keys, I recommend that you give the content of your thank you some careful consideration and consider my advice below.
There is no secret sauce to writing the perfect thank you—as there are many ways to write an effective note of appreciation. But there are a few key guidelines to keep in mind:
Keep it short
The tone should be positive, friendly, professional and not overly formal or familiar
Express appreciation for the person’s time in meeting/speaking with you
One or two sentences about what you enjoyed about your conversation
Reiterate interest (if interviewing for a job)
Fonts: Should not be too big or too small, black color preferably, conservative/common font style
Refrain from emojis, smiley faces, winks and too many exclamation points (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
No ALL CAPS
Send within 24-48 hours of your interaction
Email is the standard form today, but if you’d like to opt for handwritten, go for it
Continue reading here.
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
"Legal education reform has reached the first year of law school. Reform of the first year of law school is vital because it lays the foundation for the second and third years, as well as legal practice. Of course, changes to the first year must be done properly, following the latest research in how students learn. You can’t just add a few skills experiences to the first year and hope that will work. The first year must start with the basics so that students are ready to solve more advanced problems. In other words, the first year needs to emphasis the legal reasoning process, how it is applied, and simple problem solving.
An important part of reforming the first year is to adopt text books that have been written with the new purpose of the first year in mind and that are based on general learning theory. This article discusses the lessons I learned about writing texts for first-year students from writing an experiential torts text, A Companion to Torts: Think Like a Torts Lawyer (2015). I believe that the keys to writing a first-year text are to 1) start the students out slowly and explicitly, 2) break legal reasoning (thinking like a lawyer) into its essential parts (deductive reasoning, reasoning by analogy, distinguishing, synthesis, and policy-based reasoning) and have students do exercises in each of these types of legal reasoning, 3) teach students how to apply law to facts, and 4) have the students solve increasingly harder problems using these skills.
The first half of this paper will present the theoretical basis for the exercises I used in my torts text. Part II will discuss the neurobiology of learning, which must be the foundation for any effective approach to education. Part III will examine the effectiveness of particular learning techniques in relation to the neurobiology of learning. Part IV will lay out “Bloom’s Taxonomy,” a description of the six stages of cognitive learning. The second half of this paper will then present how I wrote my torts text, based on the theory of the first half. Part V will discuss how to organize the text. Part VI will give the types of exercises that should be included in such a book. These exercises comprise retrieval exercises, issue-spotting exercises, legal reasoning exercises on rule-based reasoning, analogical reasoning, distinguishing cases, rule synthesis, and policy-based reasoning, reflection exercises, metacognitive exercises, professionalism and professional identity exercises, and extended problem-solving exercises."
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
According to this article from the New York Times, because many retailers and credit card companies no longer require users to leave their John Hancock to validate their identity, the art of writing a distinctive signature may be going the way of the buggy whip. (For a brief overview of the current signature requirements for court filings, click here and here). There's a link to the full article below as well as a companion video report.
Click here to read the article.
As readers of this blog may know, our co-blogger Professor Lou Sirico has been dealing with a medical issue these past few months but is now home and resting comfortably. We all want him to know that we're always thinking about him (even though we don't always blog about it) and wish him the speediest of recoveries. Hang in there, Big Lou!
From everyone at the Legal Skills Prof Blog.
Sunday, April 8, 2018
There's an interesting article by Professor Brian Sheppard (Seton Hall) in the March issue of Thomson Reuters' Practice Innovations newsletter that discusses the phenomenon of "skill fade" which occurs when workplace technologies replace human decision-making. By way of example, Professor Sheppard notes that several studies have shown that the use of autopilot technology for commercial flights can lead to a decline in pilot skill. Professor Sheppard then hypothesizes about whether the same could happen to lawyers as a result of the increased use of Artificial Intelligence driven by algorithms to make strategic decisions about a client's case that in the past would have been done by the lawyers themselves. Here's an excerpt:
. . . .
Artificial intelligence—particularly the sort that uses algorithm-powered machine learning—can evaluate, sort, and cull information outside the lawyer's view. For example, existing technology allows cases or other resources to be selected, processed, and used as citations in machine-generated memoranda or contracts. The automated process of creation is almost always hidden. Companies wall it off in the name of intellectual property. But even if there were no walls, lawyers would be unable to understand the decision-making process that led an algorithm to sort information. And states could not set ethical duties at such a challenging level.
However, it is not easy to see how the inscrutability of algorithms creates an ethical problem. Won't lawyers be able to assess whether the technology is producing better outputs than they could have produced without it? Won't they be able to review memoranda and check for errors?
Perhaps not. Automation may lead to a phenomenon known as skill fade.
Skill fade has been observed in occupational fields in which automation has become widespread. For example, numerous empirical studies have shown that autopilot can lead to a decline in pilot skill. Calvin L. Scovel III, the Inspector General of the US Department of Transportation, became so concerned about skill fade that his office reprimanded the Federal Aviation Administration. They claimed that they no longer know how many pilots are still capable of manually operating planes. Unfortunately, human error after autopilot failure was a likely cause in the recent crashes of Turkish Airlines flight 1951 and Asiana Airlines Flight 214.
Skill fade becomes problematic when an automated system fails. If we conceive of system failure as an inability to access or otherwise use automated programs, then system failure in legal practice would be incredibly rare. It might happen during a long-term power outage, internet failure, or something similarly dramatic. While these developments are not impossible—Puerto Rico stands as a continuing example—they are highly improbable. I have been doing legal research since the turn of the millennium, and I haven't looked at pocket parts since my first year of law school.
However, the inability to access technology is not the only type of system failure. Clients could also be harmed when automation evolves to a point that it ceases to perform as well as lawyers. As with the skill fade from widespread use of autopilot, unnoticed degradation is a bigger risk than the system breaking outright. As legal skills fade, we might be unable to gauge whether the outputs of the system are as good as the outputs that we would have created in the pre-automation period.
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Continue reading here.
Saturday, April 7, 2018
“Another nail in the coffin for learning styles” – students did not benefit from studying according to their supposed learning style
It's not a good time to be promoting teaching methods based on so-called "learning styles" (here and here). This post from the website Research Digest, a publication of the British Psychological Society, summarizes a recent study involving "hundreds" of undergrad anatomy students which found that those who employed study techniques congruent with their supposed "learning style" saw no improvement in their course grades compared to students who used study methods incongruent with their learning styles. The study itself can be accessed here. But here's an excerpt from the Research Digest post that summarizes the study's findings:
The idea that we learn better when taught via our preferred modality or “learning style” – such as visually, orally, or by doing – is not supported by evidence. Nonetheless the concept remains hugely popular, no doubt in part because learning via our preferred style can lead us to feel like we’ve learned more, even though we haven’t.
Some advocates of the learning styles approach argue that the reason for the lack of evidence to date is that students do so much of their learning outside of class. According to this view, psychologists have failed to find evidence for learning styles because they’ve focused too narrowly on whether it is beneficial to have congruence between teaching style and preferred learning style. Instead, they say psychologists should look for the beneficial effects of students studying outside of class in a manner that is consistent with their learning style.
For a new paper in Anatomical Sciences Education, a pair of researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have conducted just such an investigation with hundreds of undergrads. Once again however the findings do not support the learning styles concept, reinforcing its reputation among mainstream psychologists as little more than a myth.
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Continue reading here.
Hat tip to Professor Debbie Borman.