Thursday, April 5, 2018
In a post signed by several attorneys who identify themselves as members of the "Young Attorney Editorial Board" (you can read about these Young Turks of law school reform here) at the American Lawyer website (nee magazine), the argument is made that the third year of law school is long overdue for a radical transformation. These recents grads say that law schools need to offer more clinical education opportunities, collaborative learning opportunities where students have to develop teamwork skills, as well as training in several practical skills like the technologies lawyers will use in practice, accounting, finance, and management skills. And, oh yeah, enough already with a single final exam in every course and instead, law profs, start using assessments that measure whether students can solve problems as part of a collaborative team. Here's an excerpt of their editorial:
The expectations placed upon young lawyers have evolved over time. To keep pace, legal education must do the same. And there is a role for law firms to play, too.
It has been five years since President Barack Obama encouraged law schools to consider eliminating the 3L year. Yet despite his charge and calls for reform from practitioners and professors, not much has changed since then, or, in fact, since he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991.
This lack of change is in part because law school education works. The Socratic method teaches lawyers to think critically and on their feet. Traditional first- and second-year classes provide foundational knowledge and skills that all lawyers need.
But a lot about legal education is not working to prepare new lawyers for the realities of modern-day practice. A number of law schools spend too much time teaching to the bar exam, even though, thanks to technology, memorization is rarely useful in the practice of law today. Even where the focus is on training students to think like lawyers, three years of that is not necessary, particularly at a hefty price tag and at the expense of more practical training in the professional and networking skills young lawyers need to succeed.
Today’s young lawyers are expected to be facile managers. We are tasked early on with overseeing vendors and supervising teams conducting investigations, document reviews and due diligence projects. We deliver presentations, plan project timelines and “keep the trains moving on time.”
Today’s young lawyers need basic financial and technological literacy. Lawyers in every practice area are expected to understand their clients’ finances and craft legal strategies accordingly. Young lawyers are also expected to draft budgets for their clients and then stick with them. And we are expected to utilize cutting-edge technology to develop and maintain sophisticated organizational charts, spreadsheets and presentations. Beyond that, we are often expected to understand how our clients’ IT infrastructure works, and to craft arguments and structure deals based on that understanding.
Today’s young lawyers are also expected to be expert networkers. Unlike teamwork-oriented MBA programs, law schools have historically been competitive places. Yet we are expected from day one to build relationships with our colleagues and clients and to navigate office politics. And we are expected to start developing business early on—taking business prospects (or future business prospects) out for lunch or drinks, assuming leadership roles in bar associations, and establishing ourselves as experts in our fields through writing and presenting—all while carrying the heavy workload that has always been a rite of passage in our profession.
On top of all this, young lawyers are expected early on to take the lead on important documents and appearances. We are often asked to take and defend depositions, meet with clients, appear in court, manage closings or prepare first drafts of filings and contracts.
Despite the undisputed importance of these practical skills, they are rarely taught in law schools or even the law offices where many young lawyers start their careers. It is time for that to change, and every aspect of our profession has a part to play in that evolution.
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Continue reading here.
Using decision tree technology in clinical legal education as an alternative to traditional pedagogy to reduce professional errors
This is a new article by Professor Timothy Tarvin (Arkansas) called Combating Professional Error in Bankruptcy Analysis Through the Design and Use of Decision Trees in Clinical Pedagogy and can be found at 91 St. John's L. Rev. 427 (2017). Here's an excerpt from the intro:
The evolution of legal education has been punctuated by dynamic change, but its focus has always been teaching analytical reasoning. “Thinking like a lawyer” is the gold standard and goal of legal education, regardless of the methodology. In the modern era, this goal has been denounced as too modest. As increasing numbers of beginning practitioners have discovered that they lack the practical skills they need, there has been an outcry from the bar for educational reform that has manifested itself in studies, commentaries and revised curriculi. The studies and commentaries call for supplemental training in analytical reasoning and opportunities for experiential education, including the use of new technology in the practice of law. The call for curricular changes expresses a professional need for new graduates to be practice ready and proficient. This Article explores the changing needs of the profession, the crisis in malpractice claims, the new demands being placed on legal academia, and the challenges faced by legal educators. The author's thesis is that the design and use of a decision tree for bankruptcy analysis can reduce or prevent professional error when used properly in clinical pedagogy.
A half century ago, the notion that decision tree software would guide a user through a series of questions and illuminate the critical issues in the legal analysis of a client's problem would have been considered science fiction. Now it is a reality, and the potential to harness this technology as an educational tool is ripe. This Article proposes the design and use of a decision tree algorithm that presents a data driven sequence of questions to guide the user towards an optimal recommendation regarding whether to file Chapter 7 consumer bankruptcy.
Prior to the advent of decision trees and other forms of branching logic, the essential questions related to legal analysis could be reduced to checklists or other written documents. Lawyers, judges, and professors memorized questions that were key to analyzing the most common legal problems through sheer repetition. In the digital age, attorneys can learn the same information with the added safeguard of a decision tree application that replicates the sequence of questions required in legal analysis.
The decision tree works well in the clinical setting because it is propositional. In other words, the decision tree is designed to introduce a logical series of propositions in the form of syllogisms. This format, represented as “if this, then that,” drives the process forward. The construction of the decision tree is designed to allow the sequence of questions to vary according to the responses chosen. The decision tree is conversational because its format engages users in an interactive exchange that directs the user towards a conclusion based on the responses supplied.
The uses and benefits of this decision tree technology in the clinical setting include: (1) protecting clients and students from professional error, (2) teaching students critical issues in legal analysis, (3) assisting clinical faculty in supervision, (4) improving risk management, (5) promoting access to justice, (6) fostering judicial economy, and (7) rehabilitating and reclaiming the image of lawyers as honored professionals. The prototype includes the questions to be posed, the universe of responses, and links to the relevant legal authority. The user's ability to analyze a given issue is either confirmed or corrected by the decision tree.
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Tuesday, April 3, 2018
A plan to open a new Canadian law school that will be part of Ryerson University in Ontario is moving closer to becoming a reality after the Canadian Law Federation granted preliminary approval back in December for a 2019 or 2020 opening. The interesting angle for readers of this blog is that school founders plan to create a cutting edge curriculum that will prepare students for the future of law practice including courses in entrepreneurship and a mandatory bootcamp in computer coding. The goal is to prepare graduates to pursue careers as entrepreneurs in fields where the law and technology intersect such as products and services that rely on technology to increase access to justice for underserved communities. I know nothing about computer coding except what I learned in a high school BASIC course eons ago but am wondering out loud whether there's a natural synergy between imparting the logical, Langdellian-style analytical skills needed to "think like a lawyer" and the skill set needed to write code.
Here's an excerpt from Ryerson's press release regarding the curricular plan for its planned law school:
Ryerson University is on track for creating a new generation of lawyers. With a focus on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, Ryerson’s upcoming Juris Doctor (J.D.) program is positioning itself as a unique alternative to existing law schools in Ontario.
Students will use classroom technology to innovate and participate in a mandatory coding boot-camp.
“Coding is so central to understanding the standing legal processing,” said Anver Saloojee, lead of Ryerson’s law school application. “They can follow a case, manage a case, and not just engage on the technological side, but it teaches them skill sets.”
With Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) and Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ), future J.D. graduates will have easier access to entrepreneurship in legal technology than their competition.
“Through legal technology, there’s more access to justice,” said Shiwar Jabary, start-up experience assistant at LIZ. This is especially true now compared to before, when it was more expensive.
Jabary said the new J.D. program will create 21st century lawyers who are, “always willing to change for the better in terms of efficiency, providing a better service, being able to give service to more people and looking always to do things in a better way.”
While there is no guarantee of immediate employment, integrating a tech-focused curriculum would benefit graduates pursuing intellectual property law, cybersecurity or a legal start-up, he said.
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Continue reading here.
Monday, April 2, 2018
From The National Law Journal, by Max Weber, the Assistant Dean of Career Services at Harvard Law School:
Harvard Law School Assistant Dean of Career Services Mark Weber reflects on more than two decades of law school and legal practice developments.
Lawyers beginning their legal careers in Big Law today earn more, specialize earlier and benefit from technology that affords them flexibility. I’ve spent 24 years working with students, alumni and employers. Here are seven notable changes impacting new lawyers today:
- The Double-Edged Sword of Technology
- Increased Salaries, Increased Debt
- A Focus on Increased Training and Exit Opportunities
- Unique Mentoring Opportunities
- Increased Options for the JD Degree
- A Focus on Mental Health & Balance
Read the full article explaining each of these bullet points here.
Why Legal Writing is 'Doctrinal' and More Importantly Profound by Harold Anthony Lloyd
"So long as we must use the questionable term “doctrinal” when referring to law school courses, this article challenges everyone (including law professors who teach legal writing) to stop directly and indirectly referring to legal writing as a “non-doctrinal” course. Use of “non-doctrinal” can be code for “lesser” thereby suggesting that legal writing has lesser import than other law school courses. Erroneously so marking legal writing as “lesser” damages legal education across the board. It damages students and law professors not teaching legal writing by suggesting that legal writing and the theory, skills and insights taught by legal writing merit less of their time which in turn increases the odds that both students and other faculty will remain ignorant of the critical knowledge and skills that legal writing teaches. It also damages law professors teaching legal writing because it invites disparate treatment such as lack of tenure, lower pay, and lack of equal respect. As a result, law professors teaching legal writing encounter greater difficulties in publishing scholarship, difficulties which deprive us all of the scholarship so silenced or deterred. Such erroneous code also ignores the profound subject matters addressed in legal writing courses today, a number of which subject matters are briefly surveyed in this article. Such erroneous code further ignores fundamental principles of semantics and fundamental insights of modern cognitive psychology embraced by legal writing courses today. In addition to examining the foregoing, this article also explores why the term “doctrinal” should be replaced with such terms and phrases as “meaningful” when referring to courses and “proper subject matter” when referring to course content."
I agree with Professor Lloyd that law schools should eliminate the distinction between doctrinal and non-doctrinal courses. On my first day of law school, we were told that we would be taught to "think like a lawyer." Law schools still talk about teaching their students how to think like a lawyer. So, teaching students how to think like a lawyer must be the most important thing that law schools do.
What class does a better job of teaching students how to think like a lawyer: legal writing or the so-called doctrinal courses? Legal writing teaches students how to use knowledge in practice. Lawyers need more than knowledge; they need to know how to use that knowledge. Legal writing teaches the components of legal reasoning better than the Socratic method does. It teaches students how to use their legal reasoning skills in memos and briefs. In sum, which type of course better develops students' critical reasoning skills and intellect?
Here is another article on Texas tech's "brain training" program: Law Com, Law Students Benefit From 'Brain Training,' Study Finds. (or here) "Texas Tech law students were better able to synthesize cases and apply legal concepts broadly after undergoing 'brain training' during orientation."
"Texas Tech launched the pilot in the fall of 2015 in partnership with the Dallas-based Center for Brain Health. During orientation, the new students learned about basic neuroscience concepts and the role of the brain’s frontal lobe, which is often referred to as the command center. The clinicians from the Center on Brain Health then led multiple small-group sessions where students were exposed to strategies intended to improve their ability to focus; their ability to zoom in on key information and place that information into the bigger picture; and their ability to update their ideas and perspectives in light of new information."
As I have said before, the most important part of the first year is developing the basic components of legal reasoning and problem solving, which law students will need throughout their legal careers. The brain training program does this by giving students metacognitive skills and practicing cognitive skills.
As part of his contribution to the Madison Symposium on the PrawfsBlawg, Professor Jerry Organ has written about learning outcomes and self-directed learning. Here are key excerpts:
"While I have found most of the contributions to this virtual symposium to be very thought-provoking, I have been struck by how little discussion there has been about learning outcomes. Whether people fully understand this or not, the most significant change in the ABA’s Accreditation Standards in the last two decades is the mandate that law schools develop learning outcomes for their graduates and then assess their students and graduates progress on those learning outcomes. This shift in accreditation from an input-based approach to an outcomes-based approach, if it is going to be taken seriously, requires that law schools embrace a more collaborative approach to legal education. The outcomes-based approach is a competency-based approach in which each law school collectively needs to make sure that its students and graduates are making progress in developing the various competencies the law school has identified within its learning outcomes. This is only going to happen if the faculty collaborate to assure that across a set of required and elective courses students and graduates receive opportunities to develop and demonstrate the identified competencies."
"For example, Michael Waterstone highlighted that law schools should be helping students and graduates develop an orientation toward life-long learning. To some extent, this can be captured within the concept of self-directed learning in which our students take ownership of their learning not only during law school but after law school. Of those law schools with published learning outcomes, roughly 50 law schools have identified self-directed learning as a learning outcome. But for those law schools to accomplish this learning objective, they are going to need to create curricular interventions to help students develop and assessment mechanisms to help students demonstrate self-directedness. Self-directedness might be a particularly vexing learning outcome for many law schools, given that the first year is generally a required curriculum (in which students get to assert limited autonomy or self-directedness). Moreover, for those students who do not do well in the “first-year tournament,” a common response appears to be disengagement and despair rather than a sense of agency and ownership in which students decide to become self-directed and begin the process of life-long learning. Without some direction and coaching – some intentionality among faculty and staff – I am not sure we can assume students will figure out how and why it is important for them to be self-directed within the new legal marketplace.:
I agree with Professor Organ. As I have written before, turning out self-directed learners should be a law school's top priority. However, this cannot be done through traditional law teaching alone. It requires active learning, instruction in metacognitive skills, formative assessment, and frequent problem-solving exercises. Above all, it requires that students take responsibility for their own education within a law school that nurtures their professional identity development.
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International Fact-Checking Day is promoted by the International Fact-Checking Network in partnership with fact-checking organizations around the world. We believe that fact-checking shouldn't be something only professional fact-checkers do. An accurate information ecosystem requires everyone to do their part.
Fact-Checking Day is a rallying cry for more facts in politics, journalism, and everyday life. It is meant to be lighthearted, but practical.
On this website you will find tip sheets and a reading list for everyday media consumers, course material for high school and college students, an interactive quiz and more.
More information about IFCD can be found here too.
Sunday, April 1, 2018
I believe the conference organizers have coined a new term - "clinnovation." Here are the details about the inaugural edition of this upcoming conference:
1st Annual Clinnovation Conference: Where Legal Innovation & Technology Meet Clinical Pedagogy
Keynote: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants
- Hear from leaders of innovative law labs across the country, including the Legal Design Lab at Stanford, the Access to Justice Labat Harvard, the NuLawLab at Northeastern, The Law Lab at Chicago-Kent College of Law, LawX at BYU Law, and of course, Suffolk's new LIT Lab
- Listen to leading employers in the field of legal tech and innovation
- Network with clinicians, legal services providers, educators, legal tech leaders
Monday, April 9, 2018
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Suffolk Law, Sargent Hall
120 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02108
1st Floor Function Room
Register Now! $25 (public service waivers available).
Pre-Registration deadline April 2nd. Limited registration available day-of.
Rapid-fire and poster proposals are now closed.
Questions or accommodations?
Please contact Geraldin Batista at email@example.com
More details can be found here.