Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Panelists at Thomson Reuters' 2018 Legal Executive Forum discuss future of law school skills training
The panel discussion, which took place last Friday in NYC during the annual TR conference, was called "Training the 21st Century Lawyer: Envisioning a Legal Industry Alliance" and included Jae Um, Founder & Executive Director of legal market insights firm Six Parsecs, Thomas Bender, co-president & co-managing director at Littler Mendelson and Professor William Henderson (Indiana University Maurer School of Law) who's also one of the principals behind the Institute for the Future of Law Practice. They discussed trends in law school curricular reform aimed at preparing students not just in acquiring the substantive legal knowledge needed to practice law but also legal technology, management skills, e-discovery, and better understanding the operational and business needs of the client. LegalTechNews has a report on what the panelists discussed:
Speakers at the Thomson Reuters 2018 Legal Executive Forum in New York argue that legal education has fallen behind as the legal industry has shifted to serve more operational and business needs.
Working in today’s legal market requires more skill than just knowing the law, but not all law schools have matched their curriculum to this changing marketplace.
“If you look at the legal market from the point of view of a law student, that is very far removed from the market you see,” said Jae Um, founder & executive director of legal market insights company Six Parsecs, at the June 8 “Training the 21st Century Lawyer: Envisioning a Legal Industry Alliance” session of Thomson Reuters’ 2018 Legal Executive Forum in New York.
Um noted that the current model of education, which trains around “conceptual subject matter expertise,” is outdated, and what law schools need to do is focus more on teaching students how to work in today’s legal market. Such a market is defined by the recent rise of legal operation professionals, knowledge management staff, and e-discovery managers, all of whom play an integral part in law firms. The work of today’s lawyers and legal professionals, therefore, is as much about solving a client’s business and operational needs as it is their legal ones.
William Henderson, professor of law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, noted that the rise of these new and different types of law firm positions was proof that the industry had undergone a profound change, even if legal education hasn’t kept up.
“We don’t change very often. But when we change, we change in an order of magnitude that is fairly large,” he said at the forum. “And I hope legal education is on the brink of creating a different narrative.”
But while most law schools have yet to change, some are redefining legal education from the ground up. As an example, Henderson pointed to The Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP), an organization that partners with law schools, firms and corporations to create internships for law students. These internships count as part of students’ legal education, and include two legal operations and legal tech boot camps that help prepare the students for their internships.
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Continue reading here.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
A group of "top" law schools has collected data on which OCI organizations (the data includes mostly BigLaw firms but also includes other organizations like the ACLU Immigrants Right Project and the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps) showing which require summer hires to sign mandatory arbitration agreements in the event of a dispute with their employers. The data also reflects which organizations require summer hires to sign confidentiality agreements. Man, things sure have changed since I was a summer associate (i.e. the idea of having to sign an arbitration or confidentiality agreement was inconceivable). Here's the story from Inside Higher Ed along with a link to the aforementioned chart:
A group of top law schools on Monday released the results of a survey of workplace harassment policies at law firms recruiting on their campuses.
Those law schools asked the firms last month to respond to questions about mandatory arbitration agreements and other policies dealing with workplace harassment. Student organizers had pushed for the disclosure of those policies, and recent news reports had shown some major law firms required summer associates to sign mandatory arbitration or nondisclosure agreements.
The survey results showed several top law firms require arbitration for workplace disputes, although some noted that they do not require confidentiality and others exclude harassment or discrimination claims. Almost half of the 200 firms that received the survey chose not to respond.
Sunday, June 10, 2018
Unbeknownst to me, Marquette University Law School has had one since 2013 and it's nicely profiled in this article from yesterday's Milwaukee Courier. It looks like a really cool idea - basically a van operated by the school that embodies the very notion of "community outreach" by traveling 4 to 8 times a month (check out this month's schedule here) to engage with potential clients and dispense legal advice. Here are some more details about Marquette's mobile legal clinic from the Milwaukee Courier:
Understanding the legal system is a challenge for some but being able to navigate your way through can be even more difficult. Just like the school system, an individual’s zip code can determine and affect the resources that individual may or may not receive when it comes to receiving legal help.
To counter this injustice, the Milwaukee Justice Center Mobile Legal Clinic: A Project of Marquette University Law School, or Mobile Legal Clinic for short, is providing free law advice to Milwaukeeans.
Mobile Legal Clinic started in 2013. It has multiple events or stops in different neighborhoods throughout the city where they provide legal advice. This month alone they have seven areas in the city where they’ll be located with their bus to give the community legal advice.
Those in search of advice can get help on various topics including evictions, bill collections, child support, foreclosure, small claims (under $10,000) and much more.
“We cover just about anything,” except criminal cases, said AmeriCorps Public Ally Jack Ceschin.
Ceschin works with Mobile Legal Clinic through Public Allies, and he said the project has been increasing in attendees. They’ve gone from around four events per month to around eight, and they’ve already provided help for over 100 people, this year.
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Continue reading here.
Friday, June 8, 2018
The website AZCentral.com is reporting that the ABA notified Arizona Summit (a for-profit law school run by InfiLaw) that it has made the decision to revoke the school's accreditation and that school officials communicated that decision to students via email late on Friday. You can read the ABA's notice announcing its decision to pull accreditation here. The school had been previously placed on probation by the ABA back in March 2017 due to low bar pass rates.
The school has 30 days to appeal the ABA's decision (until July 9) but meanwhile is required to develop a teach-out plan to assist current students in completing their degree and passing the bar unless the ABA otherwise stays that requirement due to an appeal.
Here are more details from AZCentral's report:
A private Phoenix law school told its students and faculty by email late Friday that the American Bar Association plans to pull the school's accreditation.
The decision means that Arizona Summit Law School cannot accept new students and must put together a plan to ensure current students are able to complete their law degrees and take the Bar exam.
The law school has been on probation by the ABA since March 2017 and a notice published on the ABA's website Friday said that after a review in May, the ABA finds the school is still out of compliance with ABA standards for program rigor and academic support.
Don Lively, the school's president and founder, confirmed that the school will be putting together a "teach out" plan, as required by the ABA, to ensure current students can get their law degrees.
He also will consult with the school's attorneys to consider appealing the bar's decision. The school has 30 days to appeal.
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Continue reading here.
The American Association of Law Libraries has accused LexisNexis of possible antitrust violations.
"I am writing to ask that LexisNexis cease its recently enacted policy of tying access to its electronic and print publication products to the purchase of a license to its Lexis Advance search product. AALL believes this practice is anticompetitive and detrimental to the long-term relationship between LexisNexis and AALL's constituents."
You can read the rest of the letter here.
Thursday, June 7, 2018
The Dartmouth, Mass law school first began admitting students in 2010 and later received full ABA accreditation in 2016. The Boston Business Journal is now reporting that post-grad attorney job placement numbers have hit an all-time high along with the school's bar pass rate. More details here:
For the first time since it was founded in 2010, the University of Massachusetts School of Law has placed more than half of its graduates from the previous year’s class into full-time attorney work.
By early this spring, 55 percent of the UMass Law Class of 2017 had found full-time, long-term work that required passage of the bar exam, according to recently published data from the American Bar Association. That’s 15 percentage points higher than its job-placement rate for the Class of 2016.
No law school in Greater Boston experienced a greater year-over-year jump in full-time attorney employment, the ABA data show. Four of the region's law schools had better job-placement rates overall, while two finished with lower rates.
UMass Law, which is located in Dartmouth, started in 2010, when the UMass system took over Southern New England School of Law and turned it into the only public law school in Massachusetts. In the institution’s first years, relatively few graduates found long-term attorney work within a year of graduating: just 29 percent of its Class of 2011 did so, and that rate hovered around 30 percent up through the Class of 2015.
Several factors contributed to this past year’s jobs increase. Most obvious is that a higher percentage of graduates passed the bar exam, a requirement to become a lawyer. In July 2015, 60 percent of first-time test takers from UMass Law passed the bar. Last summer, that figure rose to 75 percent.
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Continue reading here.
While these issues have been raised before, I have not seen stronger language in previous articles.
Law Schools Are Failing Students of Color by Erin Thompson.
"If these minority applicants succeed, they could change the balance of power in American society. If they fail, they will find themselves crushed under a lifetime of debt. But few are aware that they are taking this enormous gamble in a rigged game."
"On average, minority students end up in lower-ranked law schools, which they pay more to attend than white students, resulting in higher debt burdens. Minority law graduates have lower bar-exam-passage rates, employment rates, and income levels."
"Legal education has failed and will continue to fail minorities. . . . the system loads many of them with staggering debt before killing their hopes, leaving them hanging from the very bootstraps they had hoped to use to rise."
The reason for low minority presence at elite law schools: "Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores. Minority and underprivileged students have consistently had lower average LSATs than white and wealthier test takers, even when other ways of measuring their abilities and achievements did not show a difference. There has been much debate about the causes of this score gap. The expense of the preparation courses that teach LSAT-taking skills is certainly one reason. Others suggest that the test itself has hidden racial biases, since it calls for analyses that might be performed differently by those with different backgrounds." "Such a debt is a far heavier burden for minorities, since the lists of schools with the highest proportion of them and of those with the lowest percentage of graduates employed in full-time legal jobs show considerable overlap."
"In his recent book Law Mart: Justice, Access, and For-Profit Law Schools, law professor Riaz Tejani dissects the way low-ranked law schools market themselves to students with low LSAT scores by promising to provide “access to justice.” Accepting students who will largely fail to get legal jobs in the name of allowing them the opportunity to access a legal education is, Tejani claims, symptomatic of a neoliberal model of legal education, which offers “'social inclusion'” at a steep price “'devoid of social protectionism.'”
"Minority students generally pay more for the privilege of going to these lesser schools, again thanks to the LSAT. Schools offer merit scholarships to students with high scores in order to increase their rankings. Lower-scoring students pay full sticker price and so, in essence, fund those scholarships, which tend to go to a wealthier, less diverse group of students in what some critics have dubbed a reverse Robin Hood effect. "
"The LSAT score gap means that American law schools have developed a kind of educational apartheid: Minorities disproportionately end up at lesser law schools."
Why would law schools do this: "The profits to be made from marginal students are significant, since tuition hardly varies between law schools, regardless of their quality."
What effect does this have: "The average graduate will have taken on more than $100,000 in debt." "Even those who went to law school to help members of their community regularly find themselves unable to afford to do so—if they want to meet their monthly loan payments."
"Solutions are not simple, but change is clearly needed in areas ranging from admissions standards and law-school coursework to the nature of the bar exam itself—and that undoubtedly only begins to touch on the deeper biases embedded in the system."
"Imagine, then, what a difference more minority judges might make. Unless the current system of education changes, however, that difference will remain a figment of the legal imagination."
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Florida Judge J. Layne Smith has published an open letter in the Tallahassee Democrat urging new law school graduates to be scrupulously honest, fair, treat everyone with respect, listen rather than talk, nurture a healthy skepticism and read everything you can get your hands on - among other traits. An excerpt:
Dear Law School Graduate:
Congratulations - graduating from law school is a milestone! Take time to celebrate your achievement with family and friends. Tomorrow you can refocus on passing the bar exam, finding a job, and paying back student loans.
Good fortune has already smiled on you. Your chosen profession will open doors for you in private practice, public service, business and government. With continued effort and focus you can earn a good living and be a difference maker.
However, only you can decide how to live and what you want to accomplish with your career. President Kennedy said, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Likewise, Luke the Evangelist wrote, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return.” Luke 12:48. So, think big, aim high and realize your potential.
That being said, don’t get too full of yourself because you still have a lot to learn and there is no substitute for actual experience. Be patient, humble and pay your dues. The key to success is earning the confidence of others through sustained effort, professional growth and high achievement over an extended period of time.
People notice how you treat others, including the janitor, your paralegal, and opposing counsel. Show respect to everyone and be plain-spoken. Make it a habit to introduce yourself and network with a purpose.
. . . .
Monday, June 4, 2018
President Trump today declared that Mueller's appointment as Special Counsel was unconstitutional. (here) Although he didn't elaborate on this comment, he is obviously talking about the analysis by Professor Steven Calabresi, which has been picked up by several outlets. I have posted my updated analysis on why Mueller's appointment is constitutional here.
Sunday, June 3, 2018
How law schools can effect meaningful change to better meet the needs of students, the bar, employers, et al.
This is a new article by Professor Peter Gaughan (Akron) called Facilitating Meaningful Change Within U.S. Law Schools and available at 16 U.N.H. L. Rev. 243 (2018). From the abstract:
Despite the widely recognized challenges and complaints facing U.S. legal education, very little is understood about how law schools can adapt faster and better. This Article uses institutional theory, behavioral economics, and psychology to explain why change has proven so difficult for U.S. law schools. Next, using institutional entrepreneurship, the Article explains the theoretical steps necessary to overcome the institutional resistance to change. The Article then discusses the characteristics of opportunities that are most likely to better meet the needs of law students while also providing sustainable benefits to the individually innovating law schools. Using management theory, the Article then proposes a seven-step change process model to enable individual law schools to systematically overcome institutional resistance, formulate unique strategies, and actually achieve meaningful change.