Thursday, January 3, 2019
To paraphrase John Wayne at the end of The Sands of Iwo Jima, (which, by the way, is a really good movie) "time to saddle-up and get back into the [blogging] war." Here's a new article available on SSRN by Gregory Marsden (professor and dean of post-graduate studies at Monterrey Law School, Mexico) who argues that American law schools can learn a lesson from the way business schools have adapted the Socratic case method to better prepare law students for practice. Professor Marsden's article is called Doing Law School Wrong: Case Teaching and an Integrated Legal Practice Method. From the abstract:
Since its inception, the Langdellian case method has been used to teach legal analysis and reasoning to generations of U.S. law students. For nearly as long, business school students have used their own version of the case method to learn and practice management decision-making. In law school, a ‘case’ is an appellate court decision, which students must analyze in preparation for Socratic questioning. To business students, a ‘case’ is a narrative problem they must solve, before debating and defending their solutions in a moderated classroom discussion.
This paper contrasts the two case methods, first defining the methods themselves, as well as related concepts including Socratic dialogue and problem-based learning. It then asserts that neither the law school nor the business school case method is optimal to prepare students for bar admission and the practice of law. Following a detailed examination of both methods, with particular emphasis on the role of group work, the focus then shifts to a proposed Integrated Legal Practice Method. This proposed method draws on business-school case teaching, in an effort to address the shortcomings of current U.S. legal education by providing students not only with substantive and adjective legal knowledge, but also with the skills necessary for legal practice.
Robert Kuehn has posted an article on how law schools are handling the mandatory ABA requirement concerning experiential credits.
He notes that "90% of schools reacted to the new ABA requirement by simply increasing their experiential requirements from “a course” (the prior ABA requirement of as few as one professional skills credit) to the minimum six credits." However, a few schools have gone beyond the minimum. (see his list) Disappointingly, a few schools have fulfilled by just counting the spring semester of legal writing, which was not the intent of the minimum. He concludes:
"Schools that restrict experiential training for their students or engineer around ABA requirements reflect a resistance to professional skills training that was the hallmark of most schools in the 20th century. They prove, once again, that even when the ABA modestly attempts to make legal education more connected to the actual practice of law, many schools will resist. While this is a pity, the greater pity is the ABA Council’s condoning this race to the bottom."
Wednesday, January 2, 2019
It's been a week since Lou, the co-editor of this blog and a friend and mentor to so many, colleagues and students alike, passed away. I haven't posted on the blog since then out of respect for Lou's memory and because I was waiting to find the right words to express what Lou meant to the people who knew him. But after a week I'm still at a loss to adequately describe his contributions. Instead, let me elaborate a bit on my earlier post while sharing some observations and anecdotes that speak to the kind of person Lou was and the many ways he helped others.
The first thought that comes to mind when I think about Lou is that he was one of the most authentic, genuine people I've ever met. I recently had the good fortune to spend a year as a visiting professor at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs (where, ironically enough, one of Lou's former Villanova students was a JAG officer and professor in the law department) and the Air Force officers I met there, who I greatly admired, reminded me a lot of Lou. What they all have in common is their humility, putting service above self, trustworthiness, loyalty and honor. Lou didn't have much of a social media presence, and he wasn't one to tout his own accomplishments so many readers might not realize how much he devoted himself to the service of others. From organizing writing workshops that helped colleagues with their scholarship, to taking leadership positions in AALS, LWI and similar groups, to serving as EIC of the Journal of LWI and on the editorial board of Perspectives, Lou was the kind of guy that if he saw an opportunity to contribute to the profession, he was the first to raise his hand to volunteer. On an individual level, if you needed personal or career advice, he would always lend a patient ear and offer his sage wisdom. And he continued to serve others well into the latter phase of his career when most people are either slowing down or withdrawing altogether from such activities. Lou continued to serve others even when dealing with very serious health issues that for anyone else would have been good reason to dial it back. But Lou was always a work-horse and never a show-horse.
When Lou made a commitment to something, he meant it and kept his word. Take this blog, for example. When Lou agreed to help me start it in 2010, he was committing to blogging nearly every day for more than 8 years. Think about how many other blogs and bloggers have come and gone in that time. I'd like to think Lou continued to blog all these years, even in sickness, because he enjoyed it or found it satisfying, but I also know that he did it because he was a man of his word who honored his commitments. Related to that, Lou was a man of great integrity as evidenced by his decision to resign from an editorial board in protest over the mistreatment of a colleague.
For all these reasons (and more), many years ago I nominated Lou for the Blackwell Award which is given to the legal writing prof who makes an outstanding contribution to the discipline. By the time I'd nominated Lou for the award, I'd known him for more than ten years. During that time, I'd heard some colleagues pronounce his last name "sear-ah-coh," though I had always pronounced it "sur-ree-coh," like the famous Watergate judge. Since Lou never corrected me, I assumed I had it right. But during the Blackwell speech I gave on Lou's behalf at AALS that year, I asked Lou from across the room "have I been pronouncing your name wrong all these years?" Lou sheepishly nodded "yes." I later realized that Lou would rather endure the mangling of his last name than possibly embarrass someone by correcting them. In other words, another example of Lou putting the feelings of others ahead of his own.
When my mother passed away about a year or two after that, I was about to take over as EIC of J. Legal Writing, a job that Lou had also previously done. Lou was the first person I called for advice because I was thinking about quitting. Lou counselled me not to make any hasty decisions about important life choices like jobs, relationships, etc. following a traumatic event like the death of a parent. Instead, he told me to wait at least a year to put some distance between my mother's death and any decision about the EIC job. During our last phone call several weeks ago, I reminded Lou of that conversation - which he remembered well - and how I'd been able to pay it forward to others in the intervening years. Yet another example of Lou's continued service. And during our last phone call, I got emotional when Lou said he likely had less than a year due to the cancer diagnosis. Lou reassured me that he'd made peace with his situation and in so doing was clearly trying to protect my feelings a bit too.
Tom Brokaw called the generation that fought in World War II the "Greatest Generation" because of their dedication to service above self, being committed to a cause larger than oneself and their collective strength of character. Lou was born too late to be part of the "Greatest Generation" in terms of demographics. But in terms of ethos and the way he lived his life, that's exactly who he was and why we won't see the likes of Lou Sirico again.
Rest in peace.