Friday, August 30, 2019

Falling in love with the em dash

This recent Style column from the New York Times features several writers extolling the virtues of the em dash (a punctuation device so named because it's the longest of all dashes, taking up the same horizontal space as the letter "M").  As a piece of punctuation, the em dash has become especially popular today because it "lends itself to the rapid, fragmented pace of digital communication." Its popularity also rests on its versatility according to the writers consulted for the NYT column. The em dash can be used to visually represent an author's afterthought with respect to the main thrust of the sentence while other times it's the grammatical equivalent of a "fist pump." And because the em dash is not part of the old school fraternity of punctuation devices, some consider it the "bad boy" of grammatical techniques. Still others like it because it adds a "businessy" look to the text while still communicating an element of "breeziness."

The Em Dash Divides

Why do people care so much about a piece of — no offense — punctuation?


After the Oxford comma debate and the death knell of the period, the latest mark to define and divide us — breaking up our thoughts, adding emphasis to our convictions, alternately vexing and delighting readers — is the em dash.


For some writers, the em dash is a vice that their editors occasionally forgive but more often forbid. It has been duly cast as an alluring alternative to the comma, colon, semicolon and full stop in the “distracted boyfriend” meme.


The longest of the dashes — roughly the length of the letter “M” — the em dash is emphatic, agile and still largely undefined. Sometimes it indicates an afterthought. Other times, it’s a fist pump. You might call it the bad boy, or cool girl, of punctuation. A freewheeling scofflaw. A rebel without a clause.


Martha Nell Smith, a professor of English at the University of Maryland and the author of five books on the poet Emily Dickinson (the original em dash obsessive), said that Dickinson used the dash to “highlight the ambiguity of the written word.”


“The dash is an invitation to the reader to make meaning,” Dr. Smith said. “It can also be a leap of faith.”


Grammarians don’t necessarily see it that way. Mary Norris, the New Yorker’s “Comma Queen” and the author of “Between You and Me,” wrote in an email that the em dash “can be substituted for almost any other mark of punctuation — the comma, the semicolon, the colon, the period, a pair of parentheses, the quotation mark, even a bullet point in the making of a list.” Just don’t use more than two in a sentence, according to some experts.


The informal em dash also lends itself to the rapid, fragmented pace of digital communication. As such, it has begun popping up in texts, tweets and even Tinder messages.


“It’s this great piece of punctuation that gets at the emphasis of how people really talk,” said Rachel Holliday Smith, a reporter for The City and an active participant in em dash Twitter.


Cecelia Watson, the author of “Semicolon,” said that it has a kind of “urgency to it, almost like a little arrow that’s missing its arrowhead. It has that businessy but also breezy look to it. Nobody really gets intimidated by a dash.”


Which is why the em dash appears in so many contexts: lyrical fiction, news briefs, movie titles. It can sit at any table in the cafeteria. Whereas the hyphen and en dash (a midlength dash, roughly the length of the letter “n,” commonly used to indicate range) have specific use cases, the em dash contains multitudes.

. . . . 

Continue reading here.



August 30, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

What You Don't Know (Can Hurt You): Using Exam Wrappers to Foster Self-Assessment Skills in Law Students by Sarah Schendel

Self-Assessment is an important tool to help law students become self-regulated learners.  Here is a new article on self-assessment:

What You Don't Know (Can Hurt You): Using Exam Wrappers to Foster Self-Assessment Skills in Law Students by Sarah Schendel.

“Where did I go wrong?”

When we fail it’s tempting to forget it and move on. However, reflecting on poor performance and figuring out how to proceed is critical to being a successful student and lawyer. Unfortunately, when students receive a disappointing grade they often lack the ability to understand what went wrong and how to change.

Creating self-regulated learners who can identify what they don't know and make a plan to improve is key to helping students succeed. In order to do so – and in order to produce ethical, productive lawyers – law schools should place a greater emphasis on fostering the skill of self-assessment among students.

I propose exam wrappers as an effective and adaptable tool to strengthen law students’ self-assessment skills. The exam wrapper is a one page post-exam exercise currently utilized in a wide variety of disciplines including physics, chemistry, and second language acquisition; it has not yet been studied in law schools. Wrappers improve students’ study and exam taking techniques, while ingraining life-long self-assessment practices. In addition, when used properly, they constitute a formative assessment as required by American Bar Association (ABA) guidelines and best practices in legal education, without demanding an excessive amount of work on the part of professors.

In this Article I (1) briefly review metacognition and self-regulated learning; (2) argue for the importance of self-assessment as crucial a skill for law students and lawyers alike; (3) review recent scholarship on exam wrappers across higher education; and (4) offer a proposal for the development and implementation of exam wrappers in legal education. “What You Don’t Know” provides readers with foundational knowledge around the importance of self-assessment in legal education, as well as concrete templates and guidance for using exam wrappers in the law school classroom.

Given a widespread weakness in accurate self-assessment, the desire to produce self-regulated learners, and a consensus about the need for more formative assessment of law students, there is a persuasive argument for combining these needs through student-involved assessment activities. Exam wrappers are a valuable tool in the effort to standardize and strengthen law school post-exam reflection.

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 29, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Harvard opens a new animal law clinic to provide students with broad range of practical legal skills experience

The official name is the Animal Law and Policy Clinic. Below is the press release from Harvard Law Today describing the new clinic's mission and the kind of hands on practical experience opportunities it will provide participating students.

Animal Law and Policy Clinic launches at Harvard Law School


Harvard Law School today announced the launch of the new Animal Law & Policy Clinic. Animal protection is one of the fastest developing areas of public interest law. Reflecting this interest, the number of schools in the United States offering Animal Law courses has increased dramatically from only nine institutions in the year 2000 to 167 such law schools today.


The Animal Law & Policy Clinic will provide students with direct hands-on experience in litigation, legislation, administrative practice, and policymaking, both in the U.S. and internationally. The clinic will work on a broad range of issues affecting farmed animals, wildlife, animals in captivity, and the overarching threat to all forms of life from climate change. Establishing such a clinic at HLS will leverage all of Harvard University’s institutional strengths and resources to develop creative strategies utilizing law, science, and public policy. These educational opportunities will enable Harvard Law School students to make crucial contributions to the field while HLS trains a new generation of leaders for the animal protection movement.


The clinic will be part of the Animal Law & Policy Program, led by Faculty Director Professor Kristen Stilt. Announcing the clinic, Stilt said: “The Animal Law & Policy Clinic at HLS will train and prepare our graduates to embark on careers in the animal protection field, produce impactful litigation and policy analysis to benefit the animal protection movement, and provide an internationally renowned platform for educating the broader public about the many pressing issues involving animal law and policy.” Animal Law & Policy Program Executive Director Chris Green ’04 added, “It is remarkable how much the program has grown and accomplished in just its first four years. Instituting this new clinic at Harvard now adds a formal advocacy element to amplify and expand upon that existing work.”


The clinic will be led by Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor Katherine Meyer and Clinical Instructor Nicole Negowetti. Recent HLS graduate Kate Barnekow ’19 will be returning to serve as the first Clinical Fellow, and Sarah Pickering will be joining the team as Communications Manager for both the clinic and the program.

. . . . 

Continue reading here.


August 28, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Cohesion Among Law Faculty

Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine) has posted a comment about cohesion among law faculties: Moneyball, Astroball, And Pepperball.

"In my second year as dean, I was heavily influenced by Astroball. The Houston Astros general manager had used the data-driven Moneyball approach to dramatically improve the team, but fell short of a World Series championship. He then discovered the work of Kate Bezrukova, a SUNY-Buffalo business school professor whose research had studied various industries and concluded that in each one, the companies with greater employee cohesion performed better. Her insight was that demographic differences among employees ("fault lines") adversely affect performance. The GM hired her to examine whether team cohesion mattered in baseball – the conclusion was that it did, and it could account for an additional six wins per season."

"In summer 2018, I invited every faculty member and their spouse to our home for dinner in small groups. I asked everyone for their thoughts on how to strengthen community among the faculty. Consensus emerged around three things we implemented in the 2018-19 academic year. First, we instituted Faculty Mondays: we provided lunch and held faculty meetings, research and teaching workshops, and meetings with no formal agenda each week. Second, we restored the faculty retreat with spouses and children — it had been an annual event but was cancelled for several years due to budget challenges."

"Third, we gave out a Waves of Excellence Award at each faculty meeting. I presented the first one; thereafter, the winner chose the next month’s winner. It rotated each month from teaching, scholarship, and service. It came with a cheesy trophy the winner kept in her office for the month.  Perhaps most importantly, the winner got a reserved spot for the month in the front row in the faculty parking lot."

I agree with Dean Caron that cohesion is important in a law faculty.  A law faculty that gets along and follows a single vision is much better at educating students, and it is a pleasant place to work.  Hats off to Paul and his faculty for undertaking the effort.

(Scott Fruehwald)


August 26, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

How Minority Students Can Succeed in Law School

It is common knowledge that members of certain groups start law school with educational advantages. High schools in more affluent neighborhoods generally provide their students with better approaches to learning, studying, and test-taking, and these advantages continue into college. Students who grew up in poverty not only deal with poorer educations, but with the problems of growing up in impoverished neighborhoods.

The above socio-economic problems mean that minority students and others who grew up with disadvantages begin law school behind. However, this does not need to continue. Minority and poor students can easily be taught better approaches to studying and learning.

Although it helps all law students, my book, How to Succeed in Law School (2019), gives minority and poor students the tools they need to catch up with their peers who had better high school and college educations.

The first chapter helps students change their attitudes. Studies have shown that students with growth mindsets succeed while those with fixed mindsets fail or do poorly in college and law school. In addition, students must be able to self-motivate; law school requires a great deal of hard work. This chapter gives students techniques to develop a growth mindset and self-motivation.

Chapter Two is the most important chapter in the book. Students generally come into law school with poor study habits. This chapter explains study habits that work, and, equally importantly, those that don’t. For example, just re-reading does not help students retain knowledge and leads to poor grades.

Most students come to law school with poor reading habits. Chapter Three shows students how to get everything out of a text and how to effectively brief cases. It also introduces them to the five types of legal reasoning.

Chapters Four and Five help students develop advanced thinking skills. In particular, they help students become self-regulated learners.

Chapter Six gives students practical advice on what to expect in law school, including doing well in doctrinal classes, law school exams, collaborative learning, the types of classes in the first year, law school activities, summer jobs, social media, journals and the honor code.

Chapter Seven is unique because it gives students the context for law school. In the main part of the chapter, I demonstrate how the American legal system developed and give a detailed example of this development. Other sections discuss the structure of the American legal system, mandatory versus persuasive authority, and ambiguity. The chapter ends with the anatomy of a civil case.

The final chapter covers a subject of particular importance to law students today–wellness. This chapter tells students how they can deal with the stress and anxiety of law school, it tells them how law schools are helping students deal with emotional problems, and it gives them online resources they can consult.

In sum, my book gives minority and poor students skills they probably didn’t get from high school and college. It gives students a method to get better grades in law school, while also giving them a firm foundation in how to learn and become life-long learners.

(Scott Fruehwald)


August 21, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Widener Law Dean Rod Smolla on how law schools embraced experiential learning

In this ABA podcast and short accompanying article, Widener University Delaware Law School Dean Rodney Smolla talks about how law schools in general began embracing an experiential learning model for the 3L year following the 2009 legal market meltdown. Dean Smolla explains that at the time he was in the midst of implementing such a curricular change at Washington and Lee by which the school intended to replace traditional classroom coursework with experiential pedagogy that included lessons focused on lawyer professionalism, ethics, civility in practice, civic engagement and pro bono service. (As presently configured, Washington and Lee's 3L program includes an array of clinical, practice simulation, and extern opportunities for third year students).

Though at the time the new experiential curriculum was a voluntary option for Washington and Lee students, within a couple of years it became mandatory for all 3Ls (by then, Dean Smolla had moved on).  By now, most law schools have embraced similar changes to the 3L curriculum according to Smolla. You can listen to Dean Smolla discuss the gradual but widespread acceptance of an experiential curriculum among law schools over the past 10 years in this 17+ minute podcast courtesy of the Legal Rebels column at the ABA Journal website here.


August 19, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Future Of The Bar Exam By Kyle McEntee

That has been a lot written on changing the bar exam recently.  As I stated several years ago, the bar exam should reflect what lawyers do in practice.

The Future Of The Bar Exam By Kyle McEntee.

"The next generation of the bar exam is coming. Well, hopefully.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) released its Testing Task Force’s Phase 1 report this week. The report summarizes what people throughout the legal profession think about the current licensing process and exam. While readers will not be surprised by the general sentiments — people are generally dissatisfied with the current bar exam — they may be surprised that the NCBE published such forceful critiques."

"Phase I involved listening sessions with lawyers, judges, examiners, and educators. Phase II involves a practice analysis to “gather current, empirical data on the knowledge, skills, abilities, other characteristics, and technologies that newly licensed lawyers use to accomplish the job tasks they perform.” Phase III will involve turning the results of Phase I and II into exam design recommendations by the end of 2020."

"The exam tests both too much and too little. That is, it should emphasize more lawyering skills and less subject matter knowledge.

The exam should utilize more writing, less multiple-choice, and additional methods like simulation.

Jurisdictions should consider breaking the exam into different parts over more than just a few days."

Other conclusions:

"“The MEE is the least valuable component of the bar exam because it is not realistic: it requires answering short essays based upon memorization of the law, which is not consistent with how lawyers practice (e.g., with access to electronic databases like Westlaw or LexisNexis).”

"The MBE tests arcane, obscure, or trivial aspects of the law that new practitioners should not be expected to know and are not reflective of minimum competence; the MBE tests too deeply on subjects; memorizing black-letter law for the MBE to answer multiple-choice questions (MCQs) does not mimic real practice because lawyers would look up the law and not rely only on memory in representing clients; too much focus on memorization; the MBE tests only memorization and no skills; the MBE questions are full of red herrings and intentionally tricky.”

“MCQs are not realistic or an effective way to test what lawyers do; if retaining MCQs for the MBE, reduce the number of questions or increase the amount of time allowed.”

"The only fair reason to limit licensure to those who pass the bar is to protect the public. If the bar exam does not measure minimum competence, it needs to change or be eliminated. Fortunately the NCBE seems poised to oversee that change in the near future."

(Scott Fruehwald)


August 16, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Ohio State University Moritz College of Law seeking to hire clinical track legal writing prof

Here are the details courtesy of Professor Anne E. Ralph:

The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law seeks entry-level candidates for a clinical-track faculty position teaching legal writing. The faculty member will be part of Moritz’s nationally recognized legal writing program. Candidates should have relevant occupational experience and strong potential in all relevant areas of performance, including classroom teaching, feedback on student work, public service, and maintaining knowledge in the field. The faculty member will be hired for a 3-5 year probationary period, then eligible for promotion to a long-term renewable contract that permits removal only for cause or financial exigency. The faculty member will be eligible for a summer research grant and a research budget. The position will begin in the 2020-21 academic year. A J.D. or the equivalent is required.

The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law is committed to building and maintaining a diverse and inclusive community to reflect human diversity and improve opportunities for all. Diversity, inclusion, and equity are essential to the excellence of our community, culture, and curriculum, and the pursuit of this excellence is critical to our educational mission. We value diversity in all of its dimensions, including gender, gender identity or expression, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, physical and learning abilities, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and viewpoint. We seek to reflect multiple perspectives, backgrounds, and interests in all facets of our community. The Ohio State University is committed to equal employment opportunity and does not discriminate on any basis prohibited by law in its activities, programs, admission, and employment. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to a protected status.

Candidates should send a cover letter and C.V. to Daniel Tokaji, Associate Dean for Faculty, [email protected], stating that they are applying for this position. Applicants are encouraged to submit OSU's Equal Employment Identification Form.


August 13, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 12, 2019

The indisputable need for mentors to bridge the gap between law school and practice-readiness

This summer I've been working on an article about embedding student character training in law school which has been inspired by my recent experience as a visiting professor in the legal studies department at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. I was so impressed by the maturity, professionalism, and character of the cadets I interacted with at USAFA that it has caused me to explore whether and how character development can be taught in a law school context. The short answer is that "yes" it can be taught in law school as it is in several other civilian contexts. In fact, it turns out that in the early history of higher education in this country (including law school) the central aim was to graduate students of character who would be good, civic-minded stewards of the democracy.  The reasons that priority changed over time is something I discuss in my article.  In researching the history of character education in this country, school faculty have always played a vital role in serving as mentors to students by helping to train them in the values and behaviors they want students to emulate. Indeed, both the practice and study of character training is pretty clear about the vital role mentors play in achieving those pedagogical goals.  

That's a bit of a segue into the following article from the Legal Intelligencer that makes a pitch for the role mentors play in achieving the goal of nearly all law schools today - graduating students who, if not practice ready, will become so in short order. Based on my research into the role mentors play in character education, I'd state it even more emphatically than this article: You can't hope to produce (near) practice ready law graduates without the help and cooperation of experienced mentors in practice.   

Life After Law School—It's Much Better With a Mentor

A need exists to bridge the gap between the fledgling attorney fresh out of the nest to seasoned counsel capable of tackling challenging problems and seeing around corners to predict pitfalls. How does one morph from neophyte to veteran? Mentor up!


While law school may offer an education in foundational legal theory, young lawyers learn the practicalities of the profession in the trenches. Three years in the classroom digesting and applying case law, discussing legal theory through the Socratic method, and even time spent working in legal clinics simply does not translate directly to the practice of law. Thus, a need exists to bridge the gap between the fledgling attorney fresh out of the nest to seasoned counsel capable of tackling challenging problems and seeing around corners to predict pitfalls. How does one morph from neophyte to veteran? Mentor up!


Borrowing  Experience


The primary factor lacking in a young attorney straight out of law school obviously proves to be experience in the field. Experience can be accomplished with time, hard work and venturing into new frontiers, but the experience can also be borrowed. From who? Your mentor. If you have done your job when selecting a mentor or mentors to guide you through the early years of your legal journey, you likely have chosen a mentor or mentors with a significant edge in experience.


When encountering unfamiliar terrain in the course of your early practice, lean on your mentor and borrow from your mentor’s years of experience. This is when the theory discussions previously limited to the classroom can be adapted to practical scenarios seen in the courtroom. A young attorney should seek out a mentor before venturing into a new situation to limit uncertainty and apprehension.


Experienced attorneys remember plenty of their firsts, including live testimony in the courtroom, a medical deposition or counseling a client face-to-face. Without a doubt, the feeling of accomplishment achieved by overcoming such hurdles yields memories that last the lifetime of a career. To ensure those memories prove to be positive ones, formulate a strategy, borrowing from your mentor’s experience, in order to guarantee success. Odds are, your mentor has seen your scenario on countless occasions and can provide insightful advice aimed to steer you in the right direction.


. . . . 


Law school in the overwhelming majority of instances falls short of providing a young attorney with the skillset needed in order to manage the business side of the practice. During the first few years of practice, the young attorney aims to develop a library of legal knowledge within an area of practice and hone skills required to execute the various tasks associated with managing a caseload. Venturing beyond that point, the young attorney will be seeking to build a book of business of his own and the backing of a mentor can prove to be invaluable.

. . . . 

Continue reading here.


August 12, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

After All These Years: Another Bar Exam Over, Another Entering Class, but Still a Disconnect between the Licensing Exam and What We Need Lawyers to Be and Do

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Most Controversial Book of the Decade?

On August 20th, Free Press will publish what may turn out to be the most controversial book of the decade: The Assault on American Excellence by Anthony Kronman, former dean of Yale Law School.  Here is how the abstract describes the book:

"The former dean of Yale Law School argues that the feverish egalitarianism gripping college campuses today is out of place at institutions whose job is to prepare citizens to live in a vibrant democracy.

In his tenure at Yale, Anthony Kronman has watched students march across campus to protest the names of buildings and seen colleagues resign over emails about Halloween costumes. He is no stranger to recent confrontations at American universities. But where many see only the suppression of free speech, the babying of students, and the drive to bury the imperfect parts of our history, Kronman recognizes in these on-campus clashes a threat to our democracy.

As Kronman argues in The Assault on American Excellence, the founders of our nation learned over three centuries ago that in order for this country to have a robust democratic government, its citizens have to be trained to have tough skins, to make up their own minds, and to win arguments not on the basis of emotion but because their side is closer to the truth. In other words, to prepare people to choose good leaders, you need to turn them into smart fighters, people who can take hits and think clearly so they’re not manipulated by demagogues.

Kronman is the first to tie today’s campus debates back to the history of American values, drawing on luminaries like Alexis de Tocqueville and John Adams to show how these modern controversies threaten the best of our intellectual traditions. His tone is warm and optimistic, that of a humanist and a lover of the humanities who is passionate about educating students capable of living up to the demands of a thriving democracy.

Incisive and wise, The Assault on American Excellence makes the radical argument that to graduate as good citizens, college students have to be tested in a system that isn’t wholly focused on being good to them."

As you can see from the abstract, Dean Kronman attacks several basic principles of higher education today, including the importance of diversity and egalitarianism on college campuses.  Rather, he argrues that universities should return to their core commitments to reasoned argumentation and, more controversially, to the development of an "aristocratic ethos."

Despite the obvious controversy that the book will generate, it has already received favorable commentary from several prominent publications.  The New York Times declared, "This is a bracing, even brutal, assessment. But it’s true. And it explains why every successive capitulation by universities to the shibboleths of diversity and inclusion has not had the desired effect of mollifying campus radicals. On the contrary, it has tended to generate new grievances while debasing the quality of intellectual engagement."

The Wall Street Journal stated, "On American campuses, the dogmatic embrace of identity politics has damaged not just the pursuit of truth but the independence of mind necessary for democracy to flourish. . ."  "But diversity, as it is understood today, means something different. It means diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Diversity in this sense is not an academic value. Its origin and aspiration are political. The demand for ever-greater diversity in higher education is a political campaign masquerading as an educational ideal."  "The commitment was honorable, but the conversion has been ruinous."  "The relentless campaign for diversity and inclusion on campus pulls in the opposite direction. Motivated by politics but forced to disguise itself as an academic value, the demand for diversity has steadily weakened the norms of objectivity and truth and substituted for them a culture of grievance and group loyalty. Rather than bringing faculty and students together on the common ground of reason, it has pushed them farther apart into separate silos of guilt and complaint."  "The damage to the academy is obvious. But even greater is the damage to our democratic way of life, which needs all the independent-mindedness its citizens and leaders can summon—especially at a moment when our basic norms of truthfulness and honesty are mocked every day by a president who respects neither. . .  [Diversity] has become the basis of an illiberal and antirational academic cult—one that undermines the spirit of self-reliance and the commitment to truth on which not only higher education, but the whole of our democracy, depends."

The Tax Prof Blog has additional commentary, including an interview with the author.

Comments are welcome, and please let me know if you see additional reviews.

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 6, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Using Virtual Reality technology to train new courtroom lawyers

It involves technology created by the Harvard Law Access to Justice Lab that's being road tested in San Francisco this summer but there are plans to expand its use elsewhere. Of course this would be a great tool to help students build courtroom confidence while participating in law school clinics or trial advocacy courses. From Law360:

How Tech Is Helping Courtroom Newbies Become Virtual Pros


You walk into a courtroom and a woman strides toward you with an outstretched hand, rattling off details about a new case. There's a settlement conference this afternoon, you learn — and you're going to be there representing your new client.

If you don't know who this person is, just look at the words hovering over her head: "Supervising Attorney." Nervous because you've never been in a courtroom before? Don't worry — you still haven't.

This is how a virtual-reality training video begins for some attorneys who have volunteered to handle pro bono renter-landlord cases through the San Francisco Bar Association.

They don virtual reality goggles to prepare for their first courtroom experiences. Harvard Law Access to Justice Lab researchers hope that the program will embolden attorneys who've only worked in front of a computer screen rather than a judge to volunteer at pro bono clinics to help out in the courtroom.

This can be a terrifying prospect for some attorneys, and it's a big reason why many wash out when they discover what's expected of them.


Attorneys even a little bit afraid of working one-on-one with clients and navigating a courtroom might be especially tempted to pass on the opportunity if it's pro bono, since there's no financial motivation to push them through their fears, said Gloria Chun, the director of pro bono services for the San Francisco Bar Association's Justice & Diversity Center.

"Volunteering has this optional component to it that's different than how law firms work, and there are a lot of different options for pro bono," she said. The virtual reality training "has the potential to help a lot of them overcome fear of the unknown, and fear of unfamiliar settings and practices."

The program in San Francisco is one of several planned studies to see whether a 15-minute virtual reality experience might make attorneys usually holed up in cubicles more willing to take on pro bono work and, when they do, win better outcomes for their clients. If it works, it could become a more widely used tool used to prepare attorneys in legal-aid settings and beyond.

While there's certainly no shortage of opportunities for continuing legal education, VR training for lawyers remains rare. Few organizations offer it, and organizers say none offer a program quite like the one Harvard Law's Access to Justice Lab is heading.

Some law schools have used virtual reality as a way to immerse students in lessons. The University of Oklahoma College of Law, for instance, gave law students a tour of an important oil well in Western Texas through the eyes of a flying drone as professors lectured on the workings of the energy industry.

But the Harvard program seems like a unique solution to a problem that cuts across practice areas: courtroom experience has grown tougher to come by. Jury trials are growing more rare, and more senior attorneys tend to handle many appearances — the number of federal civil trials has declined 18 percent since 2014, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

. . . . 

Continue reading here.


August 6, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 5, 2019

Spaced Retrieval as an Essential Teaching Technique

Those of us who study legal education innovation are often concerned about the slow pace of adoption of proven, effective learning techniques by law schools and law teachers.  Over ten years ago, both sBest Practices and the Carnegie Report criticized legal education for using, antiquated ineffective teaching and learning techniques.  While some professors have enthusiastically adopted teaching innovations, many, many law professors have not.  Our students are the ones who suffer from this inertia.

Brian Sites has just published an excellent article on one of these underused techniques: Spaced Retrieval. Brian Sites, Learning Theory and the Law: Spaced Retrieval and the Law School Curriculum, 43 Law & Psychol. Rev. 99 (2019).

"Over one hundred years of learning theory endorse a core learning method and its component parts, and studies in a variety of disciplines and settings have repeatedly verified their supremacy as learning tools. Yet law schools largely make no use of them. One of the schools that does, however, reported a 19.2% increase in bar passage among students using it; and another law school cited it as a pivotal component of its multiple top bar scores in a state with a dozen law schools (many of which have similar or higher predictors).s Yet the typical law school curriculum ignores it, the traditional law classroom makes little use of it, and innumerable law students-who often do not know about or use the theory-are led instead down the opposite path by professors. This article advocates for changing these mistakes.

The learning tool at issue is spaced retrieval. Studies have shown that spaced retrieval and its component parts, spaced repetition and retrieval theory, lead to better, more durable learning. Their value has been established in a variety of educational settings ranging from middle school to medical school, and from the study of mathemtics to Monet. Further, reported improvements exceed a letter grade increase. What student wouldn't desire a letter grade improvement in learning mastery (even if the curve prevented an actual letter grade increase)? What law school wouldn't want to see something in the range of a ten percent increase in bar exam scores?"

"Unfortunately, legal academia is a central part of this problem. Many law professors, myself included, have looked too little at the science of learning and how learning theory studies should affect classroom behavior. In the legal field, there is underproduced empirical evidence validating adopted educational approaches. For example, where are the decades of studies supporting (or even studying) the "one final exam" law school model?' Institutionally, we too rarely promote such studies" and also too rarely tap into the fields that have already produced a wealth of such knowledge.

This is not a matter of blame but of responsibility. We owe it to students to do better. Until recently, I did not recognize the power of spaced retrieval. But the mountain of studies validating it demand attention. Around the same time Langdell was popularizing the case method, cognitive science and learning theory were already establishing the validity of spaced repetition; we have overlooked these tools for far too long."  (emphsis added)

(Scott Fruehwald)


August 5, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The most recent version of the Levit and Rostron guide to submitting law review articles

Most law professors (and many who are not) know that Professors Nancy Levit and Alan Rostron (both UMKC) publish on SSRN an annual "guide" for submitting law review articles that provides direct links to each journal's submission page, describes procedures for requesting an expedited review, which journals are no longer accepting articles at this moment, and lots of other very helpful information for new and experienced authors alike.  In short, it's essential.  

Below is the cover email the authors have sent out to help spread the word followed by a link to the newly updated version of their article on SSRN: 

Dear Colleagues,


We  just updated our charts about law journal submissions, expedites, and rankings from different sources for the Spring 2019 submission season covering the 203 main journals of each law school. 


We have created hyperlinks for each law review to take you directly to the law review’s submissions page. Again the chart includes as much information as possible about what law reviews are not accepting submissions right now and what months they say they’ll resume accepting submissions. 


There has been some change in law reviews’ submission preferences:  Now 82 schools prefer or require Scholastica as the exclusive avenue for submissions, 40 law journals prefer direct emails, and 39 law reviews prefer or require submission through ExpressO, with 37 accepting articles submitted through either ExpressO or Scholastica. Seven schools now have their own online web portals.  Ninety-three schools permit email submissions even if they prefer submission through a service.


The first chart contains information about each journal’s preferences about methods for submitting articles (e.g., e-mail, ExpressO, Scholastica, or regular mail), as well as special formatting requirements and how to request an expedited review.  The second chart contains rankings information from U.S. News and World Report  (overall, peer, lawyers and judges), as well as data from Washington & Lee’s law review website (citation count, impact factor, and combined ratings).


Information for Submitting Articles to Law Reviews and Journals: 


We would welcome your forwarding of this link to your faculty.   We appreciate any feedback you might have.


Happy writing!


All the best,


Allen and Nancy


Professor Allen Rostron

Associate Dean for Students and William R. Jacques Constitutional Law Scholar and Professor of Law

[email protected]


Professor Nancy Levit
Associate Dean for Faculty and Curators' Distinguished Professor and Edward D. Ellison Professor of Law

[email protected]    


August 4, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 1, 2019

BU School of Law seeking to hire instructor for criminal law clinic

Here are the details:




Job Description

BOSTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, a top-tier law school with an international reputation, is a community of leading legal scholars, teachers, students and alumni, dedicated to providing one of the finest legal educations in the world. Since our doors opened in 1872, we have welcomed qualified men and women, without regard to background or belief. The breadth and depth of our curriculum and scholarship as well as our innovative spirit are distinctive in American legal education.


Boston University School of Law seeks to hire a full-time Lecturer/Clinical Instructor in its Criminal Law Clinical Program (the “Program”). The Program’s mission is to provide law students with the skills and knowledge needed to engage in zealous representation of indigent clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies at the district court level.  BU Law students are court-appointed counsel in the Boston Municipal Court-Central Division and the Boston Juvenile Court. BU Law students represent clients from arraignment procedure to case resolution, including evidentiary hearings and trials. 


The Lecturer will be responsible for direct supervision of students engaged in representation of indigent clients charged with crimes in Boston Municipal Court—Central Division and Boston Juvenile Court.  When not engaged in direct supervision of students in the Defender Division, the Lecturer will supervise first semester Clinic students who are part of a litigation team in both Defender and Prosecution cases. The Lecturer will further engage in classroom teaching of all Clinic students and work closely with all Program faculty.


Required Skills

The ideal candidate for this position is a member in good standing of the Massachusetts bar for a minimum of six months, with at least three years of criminal defense experience.  Excellent litigation skills, along with research and writing, are required. Teaching and supervision experience are preferred.


Candidates should have proven trial experience, superior research and writing skills, a strong commitment to public interest lawyering, outstanding interpersonal skills, flexibility, and a passion for criminal defense work, and candidates must work well as part of a team. The ability to work sensitively with a diverse population of clients, students, and staff is essential.

This position is a non-tenure track Lecturer/Clinical Instructor appointment to a two-year contract, which may be renewed for an additional year. The start date is Monday, December 2, 2019.


Boston University School of Law is committed to faculty diversity and welcomes expressions of interest from diverse applicants.


We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. We are a VEVRAA Federal Contractor.


Applicants should send a letter of interest and a resume to Professor Anna di Robilant, Boston University School of Law, 765 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02215. Email applications are encouraged and should be sent to [email protected]. Interested candidates are encouraged to apply by September 6, 2019. Applications received on or before that date will be given full consideration.


To learn more about the law school, visit our website at


August 1, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Theory Behind My Book How to Succeed in Law School

I have posted an article on SSRN about my new book How to Succeed in Law School (2019).

The Theory Behind My Book How to Succeed in Law School by Scott Fruehwald.


There are a mountain of books on how to succeed in law school, so why one more? Because most of these self-help books give superficial advice, some of which is very bad. What is needed to help law students succeed is a book based on what works in legal education. It needs to be written by someone who has spent years in legal education and who has digested the latest in educational research.

Last year, I wrote a book for law professors on the best ways of teaching law students. It dawned on me that I should turn this book around and give advice to law students on how to succeed in law school. The keys to effective learning should not be kept from the learners.

This article gives the theory behind my book. It discusses the metatheory behind the book--Bloom's Taxonomy. Then, it presents the theory behind each chapter.

(Scott Fruehwald)

August 1, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Times on the booming market for student disability accommodations

The New York Times is reporting the market is booming for students seeking disability accommodations which give them extra time to take exams (including the SAT, ACT, and presumably the LSAT though it's not specifically mentioned in the article) that can result in a significant, competitive advantage for those students. Though the article points out that evidence of outright fraud in seeking these accommodations is scant, diagnosing a disability like ADHD often exists in a grey area that makes the process vulnerable to abuse. Thus, parents willing to spend enough money may eventually find a doctor willing to provide the requested paperwork. As the Times points out, the newspaper's own investigation revealed that students from wealthy communities obtained disability accommodations anywhere from twice to seven times the national average - you can draw your own conclusions from that.

Need Extra Time on Tests? It Helps to Have Cash

Demand for disability accommodations for schoolwork and testing has swelled. But access to them is unequal and the process is vulnerable to abuse.


The boom began about five years ago, said Kathy Pelzer, a longtime high school counselor in an affluent part of Southern California. More students than ever were securing disability diagnoses, many seeking additional time on class work and tests.


A junior taking three or four Advanced Placement classes, who was stressed out and sleepless. A sophomore whose grades were slipping, causing his parents angst. Efforts to transfer the children to less difficult courses, Ms. Pelzer said, were often a nonstarter for their parents, who instead turned to private practitioners to see whether a diagnosis — of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, perhaps, or anxiety or depression — could explain the problem.


Such psychological assessments can cost thousands of dollars, and are often not covered by insurance. For some families, the ultimate goal was extra time — for classroom quizzes, essays, state achievement tests, A.P. exams and ultimately the SAT and ACT.


“You’ll get what you’re looking for if you pay the $10,000,” Ms. Pelzer said, citing the highest-priced evaluations. “It’s a complicated mess.”


From Weston, Conn., to Mercer Island, Wash., word has spread on parenting message boards and in the stands at home games: A federal disability designation known as a 504 plan can help struggling students improve their grades and test scores. But the plans are not doled out equitably across the United States.


In the country’s richest enclaves, where students already have greater access to private tutors and admissions coaches, the share of high school students with the designation is double the national average. In some communities, more than one in 10 students have one — up to seven times the rate nationwide, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.


In Weston, where the median household income is $220,000, the rate is 18 percent, eight times that of Danbury, Conn., a city 30 minutes north. In Mercer Island, outside Seattle, where the median household income is $137,000, the number is 14 percent. That is about six times the rate of nearby Federal Way, Wash., where the median income is $65,000.


Students in every ZIP code are dealing with anxiety, stress and depression as academic competition grows ever more cutthroat. But the sharp disparity in accommodations raises the question of whether families in moneyed communities are taking advantage of the system, or whether they simply have the means to address a problem that less affluent families cannot.


While experts say that known cases of outright fraud are rare, and that most disability diagnoses are obtained legitimately, there is little doubt that the process is vulnerable to abuse. Some of the learning differences exist in diagnostic gray areas that can make it difficult to determine whether a teenager is struggling because of parental and school pressure or because of a psychological impairment. And private mental health practitioners operate with limited oversight, either from school systems or from within their own professions.


. . . .


An Unequal Diagnosis

In Washington, D.C., one mother said she had spent about $7,000 on neuropsychological evaluations for her son, now 17. She had little doubt that he needed extra help but she acknowledged that her family had resources that others in similar situations did not.


“It’s totally unfair,” said the mother, who works in political communications and asked not to be named because she wanted to keep her child’s medical history private. “I know how to advocate for my kid. We made sure he got what he needed and it wasn’t always clear. We bring that privilege to the table.”


In early childhood, her son had delays in speech, language and fine motor skills, struggling to sound out words and hold a pencil. By middle school, he had A.D.H.D. and anxiety diagnoses. His charter high school gave him a 504 plan, which offered extra time on tests and the use of a keyboard to type answers and take notes in class. He was also able to avoid filling in bubble sheets.


The 504 plans, which get their name from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, are intended to help people who have a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits” learning or other activities. They offer students such accommodations as a seat at the front of the classroom or a private room for exams, free of distractions.


One of the most common accommodations is extra time on classroom tests, which the two main college admissions testing companies, the College Board and ACT, look for when determining whether to grant students additional time for their exams. Many students struggle to complete standardized tests in the allotted minutes, and research has found that having more time can raise scores for students who have a decent grasp of the test material, whether or not they have a disability.

. . . . 

Continue reading here (subscription may be required).


August 1, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)