Thursday, April 23, 2020
Below is the 2020 preLaw Magazine's rankings for "best practical legal skills training." The magazine assesses each school according to a number of data points that focus on practical skills curricular offerings like clinics, externships, simulation courses, pro bono hours and moot court participation. The magazine gives the largest weight in its overall scoring (32%) to the number of clinical offerings. It then asked schools to provide the number of students who completed a clinic in 2018-19. If a student was enrolled in two semesters, that counted as two. Extra credit was given to schools where clinical work is guaranteed or required.
Externships were weighted at 25% of the overall rankings score with the magazine asking schools how many students completed one in 2018-19. Again, if a student had two externships, that counted as two. Simulation courses accounted for 20% of the overall score with preLaw asking schools to provide total enrollment figures for such courses.
Moot court and pro bono hours accounted for 10% of the total rankings score. If a school required pro bono hours, it got extra credit.
Finally, the magazine gave 10% to additional practical training offerings, such as required legal writing. It asked schools to provide it with such information as the schools saw fit.
If schools did not reply, the magazine relied on ABA data.
Schools were then grouped based on their overall scores as "A+," "A," "A-," or "B+" and then ranked individually within those groups. The rankings for the "A+" schools are below. See the magazine here for the rankings of schools in "A," "A-," and "B+" groups.
- Northeastern University
- St. Thomas University - Mn.
- Baylor University
- University of Minnesota
- University of Denver
- Brooklyn Law School
- Elon University
- Brigham Young University
- Case Western Reserve University
- Pepperdine University
- University of Arizona
- Liberty University School of Law
- Florida Coastal School of Law
- Chapman Fowler School of Law
- Southwestern Law School
- University of Georgia
- North Carolina Central University
- University of Colorado
- UC - Irvine
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
I have just watched a lecture (Climate Change: Guest lecture by Solomon Goldstein-Rose) that contains the best solution to global warming that I have seen. (He has also written a book The 100% Solution: A Plan for Solving Climate Change (2020).) It is the best solution because it follows the established criteria for critical thinking, as I set out in my book, How to Teach Lawyers, Judges, and Law Students Critical Thinking: Millions Saw the Apple Fall, but Newton asked Why (2020).
The plan is to get harmful emissions to 0% by 2050, a common goal of environmentalists. Professor Goldstein-Rose began by looking at all sources of global warming, not just the ones we usually think about like motor vehicles. For example, agriculture and deforestation account for 17% of the harm. He does this because the world needs to deal with all the kinds of emissions if it is to achieve the 2050 goal. He also declares that the world needs to have a realistic picture of the quantity of emissions. For instance, electricity generation will not remain at 2020 levels, but it will grow significantly as world economies grow.
His most insightful observation is that creating a solution just for the United States will not stem the danger of global warming because the U.S. accounts for only a small percentage of greenhouse gases. About 2/3rds of greenhouse gases will come from developing countries by 2050 if nothing is done. The U.S. can afford to get its emissions to 0% by 2050, but other countries will not because of the high cost. The solution: concentrate on lowering the cost of green solutions. For example, electric cars will eliminate the emissions from vehicles that use fossil fuels. However, the initial cost of electric cars is significantly higher than traditional automobiles. Consequently, consumers in developing countries will not buy them. However, if the cost goes down to where electric cars cost less than traditional ones, consumers will buy them. How do you bring down the cost? Simple economics: the more units produced the lower the costs. The same principle applies to other sources of harmful emissions, such as electricity generation. In sum, governmental incentives need to be directed at bringing down the costs of green solutions.
The above is just a small part of Professor Goldstein-Rose's plan to solve global warming. Listen to his lecture or buy his book. Government planners should do both.
Why an I convinced by this solution? There are countless other solutions to global warming out there.
I am convinced because he has carefully followed the principles of critical thinking. First, he has considered the problem from all angles, and he has asked the right questions. As I mentioned above, he started by identifying all sources of global warming, not just the ones that activists usually talk about. Second, he has identified all reasonable alternatives and carefully evaluated each one, a key part of critical thinking. Finally, he has considered the consequences of his proposals, such as how to deal with the politics of solving global warming.
The solution also satisfies the key criteria of critical thinking I set out in my book:
A. It is metacognitive and reflective.
B. It is evaluative.
C. It is skeptical and moderately distrusting.
D. It is analytic.
E. It tries to be unbiased and open-minded.
F. It is effortful, potentially time-consuming, and mentally taxing.
G. It requires domain-specific expertise.
In my book and in this blog, I have stressed the importance of using critical thinking in the law. Professor Goldstein-Rose has provided a perfect example of critical thinking in public policy.
Thursday, April 16, 2020
When I was writing my book, How to Teach Lawyers, Judges, and Law Students Critical Thinking: Millions Saw the Apple Fall, But Newton Asked Why, I discovered that one of the essential aspects of critical thinking was grounding statements, ideas, arguments, and conclusions with rigorously-evaluated evidence. I noted that "Students inability to support a conclusion should tell them that their conclusion may be faulty." Students (and others) should develop a habit of checking to see whether their work is solidly based in evidence.
Today, I found a term for this habit: the evidence-based mindset. (From a lecture by Steven Pinker.) All legal scholars should adopt this mindset.
Adam Lamparello has written an article that demonstrates why legal scholars need to adopt this mindset, especially those scholars who do studies based on sociological or scientific methods. (The Flaws of Implicit Bias -- and the Need for Empirical Research in Legal Scholarship and in Legal Education) The article declares, "Empirical research methods and statistics should be incorporated into legal scholarship and the law school curriculum, preferably in the legal writing curriculum. . . . Law students (and legal scholars) should be more like social scientists. They should learn to conduct empirical research and to distinguish between credible and flawed empirical research, (particularly regarding methodological flaws) because doing [so] is imperative to making persuasive and credible arguments. After all, how can lawyers be effective social justice advocates if they are not well-versed in social science research? Moreover, the legal writing classroom is an appropriate environment in which to teach empirical research and statistical methods because it is where students learn how to research, write, communicate, and formulate persuasive arguments. Ultimately, that should be the goal of legal education."
Lamparello asserts, "recent empirical studies by social psychologists strongly suggest that implicit bias is not predictive of biased behavior. In fact, the science regarding implicit bias’s connection to biased behavior is so flawed that social psychologists doubt its validity and question the utility of policies that attempt to link implicit bias to biased behavior. You wouldn’t know this from reading the many law reviews articles concerning implicit bias, or from the orientation sessions where law students are taught to believe that implicit bias is the sine qua non of biased behavior." He continues, "Ultimately, before legal scholars and law school administrators can credibly claim that implicit bias predicted biased behavior, they must address the substantial body of social science research, particularly by social psychologists, concluding that they are wrong." He then goes into the details about the flaws in implicit bias theory. He concludes, "Quite frankly, it seems that legal scholarship in this area is driven by personal agendas rather than an honest search for truth."
Thomas Abt presented a lecture on urban violence in Steven Pinker's Rationality class at Harvard that demonstrates the importance of making policy-based decisions based on the evidence-based mindset. (here) He defines evidence as "Information about a question that is generated through systematic data collection, research, or program evaluation using accepted scientific methods that are documented and replicable." (Note that he uses critical thinking criteria within this definition.) He notes that the benefits of of evidence-informed policy are objectivity, accuracy, consistency, and transparency. He adds that the key to the scientific method is that you show your work. (I strongly recommend you watch the entire video.)
In sum, law professors need to adopt an evidence-based mindset for legal scholarship and use the proper critical tools for their area of study. (The caveat is, of course, that the evidence -based mindset is not appropriate for all areas of legal scholarship.) Using evidence, rather than relying on unreliable intuition, will lead to more accurate results. Our intuition may make us think that implicit bias theory is true, but the evidence-based mindset may show that our intuition has lead us astray. Beware of the confirmation bias.
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Here is a fascinating paper about confusion in legal scholarship concerning descriptive and normative claims: How to Fix Legal Scholarmush by Adam J. Kolber.
Legal scholars often fail to distinguish descriptive claims about what the law is from normative claims about what it ought to be. The distinction couldn’t be more important, yet scholars frequently mix it up, leading them to mistake legal authority for moral authority, treat current law as a justification for itself, and generally use rhetorical strategies more appropriate for legal practice than scholarship. As a result, scholars sometimes talk past each other, generating not scholarship but scholarmush.
In recent years, legal scholarship has been criticized as too theoretical. When it comes to normative legal scholarship, however, the criticism is off the mark. We need more careful attention to theory, otherwise we’re left with what we have too much of now: claims with no solid normative grounding that amount to little more than opinions. We have no shortage of opinions, and simply producing more opinions will not make scholarship more practical.
Of course, centuries-old disputes in jurisprudence have struggled to untangle the precise relationship between law and morality, but my message is simple: Scholars must be more clear, transparent, and rigorous about which of their claims are descriptive and which are normative (and what sort of normativity is at issue). By being more precise, we can hope to stop talking past each other and develop more objective criteria for evaluating both scholarship and public policy more generally.
Thursday, April 9, 2020
The Flaws of Implicit Bias -- and the Need for Empirical Research in Legal Scholarship and in Legal Education by Adam Lamparello
"Nowhere is the necessity of using empirical research methods and statistics in formulating legal arguments more obvious than in recent legal scholarship concerning implicit bias.
By way of background, the concept of implicit, or unconscious, bias has recently enjoyed its ‘fifteen minutes of fame,’ garnering substantial support from many scholars, including some law professors, who contend that implicit biases cause discriminatory behavior, including behaviors that disparately impact traditionally marginalized groups. Indeed, scholars have advocated for programs and policies that instruct incoming law students and faculty regarding the existence of its implicit bias and its alleged role in perpetuating overt and subtle racism.
But there is a problem – a very big problem – that plagues legal scholarship in this area and that casts doubt on these policies.
Specifically, recent empirical studies by social psychologists strongly suggest that implicit bias is not predictive of biased behavior. In fact, the science regarding implicit bias’s connection to biased behavior is so flawed that social psychologists doubt its validity and question the utility of policies that attempt to link implicit bias to biased behavior. You wouldn’t know this from reading the many law review articles concerning implicit bias, or from the orientation sessions where law students are taught to believe that implicit bias is the sine qua non of biased behavior."
Note: Lamparello's study is not a criticism of cognitive bias theory based on the work of Daniel Kahneman and others. (He does not mention Kahneman in his paper.) Kahneman's approach has been thoroughly tested by cognitive scientists.
Sunday, April 5, 2020
In music, a caesura is a complete break in metrical time with total silence. The conductor decides when to start the music again. For the poet Hölderin, a caesura in tragedy is "a rupture that sunders the continuity of historical progression and provides a break in the jointure of experience and expectation." (Charles Bambach)
Caesuras also occur in history. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe said a historical caesura "would be that which, within history, interrupts history and opens up another possibility of history, or else closes off all possibility of history." He thought Auschwitz was the caesura of the twentieth century. Similarly, Charles Bambach identified World War I as a historical caesura. He wrote, "The unspoken bourgeois faith in both the meaning and coherence of history had been shattered."
The coronavirus has created a caesura in the history of the twenty-first century. Life has stopped, and the only topic is the health and economic effects of the virus. The direction our history was going has been interrupted, and it is probable that history will go in a very different direction than it would have absent the virus.
Despite political divisions, the first two decades of the twenty-first century were a time of optimism. People believed that science controlled nature and that we were living in world in which mankind used technology to make our lives better. Writers, like Steven Pinker, argued that human progress was real and that we were living in the most peaceful time in history.
The coronavirus shattered this optimism. Our greatest scientists could not prevent the spread of a microscopic bug. Our wise leaders could not prevent the spread of the virus, and they often did a poor job treating it. The virus destroyed our economy, and it will have significant effects on our lives for years to come, just like World War I affected society and culture for a over a decade.
There is no doubt that the coronavirus will exert crucial effects on our lives, our society, and our culture. What has happened, and will happen before the end of the crisis, will send us in a direction different than we were on before. The virus will affect all aspects of our lives--our beliefs, our politics, our faith in science, the structure of societies, and even our music and our art.
It is impossible to predict how the virus and its effects will influence our future. Will we become more optimistic, more pessimistic, or more realistic? Will we become a kinder, gentler society because of our mutual suffering, or will we become more distant from our pandemic isolation? Will the world become more global, or will the suffering caused by the virus limit globalization? Will our governments become more caring of their people, will politics become more bipartisan, or will our rulers become more repressive?
No one can answer these questions at present. The only lesson we can glean from history is that the effect of a historical caesura is unpredictable.
A few authors, however, have tried to predict how our society and culture will look after the pandemic. Bret Stephens of the New York Times views at the effects of the coronavirus from 2025. (here) He sees the virus as facilitating the spread of authoritarianism. He states, "The pandemic provided a ready-made excuse for democratic governments around the world to obstruct opposition parties, ban public assemblies, suppress voting, quarantine cities, close borders, limit trade, strong-arm businesses, impose travel restrictions and censor hostile media outlets in the name of combating 'false information.'" He adds, "Remarkably, the tactics met with comparatively little resistance, partly because they were advertised as only temporary, and partly because the concerns of civil libertarians paled next to calls to 'flatten the curve.'" He also writes, "It was left to Trump to preside over an expansion of the welfare state the likes of which Bernie Sanders could only have dreamed about a year earlier." He concludes, "At the outset of the crisis it may have seemed that progressive parties stood to benefit politically. The opposite proved true."
Henry Kissinger believes that the pandemic will forever alter the world order and that governments must begin to prepare now for the post-pandemic world. (here)
He writes, "Now, in a divided country, efficient and farsighted government is necessary to overcome obstacles unprecedented in magnitude and global scope. Sustaining the public trust is crucial to social solidarity, to the relation of societies with each other, and to international peace and stability." He continues, "Nations cohere and flourish on the belief that their institutions can foresee calamity, arrest its impact and restore stability. When the Covid-19 pandemic is over, many countries’ institutions will be perceived as having failed. Whether this judgment is objectively fair is irrelevant. The reality is the world will never be the same after the coronavirus."
He warns, "The crisis effort, however vast and necessary, must not crowd out the urgent task of launching a parallel enterprise for the transition to the post-coronavirus order." He notes, "Leaders are dealing with the crisis on a largely national basis, but the virus’s society-dissolving effects do not recognize borders." He declares, "Drawing lessons from the development of the Marshall Plan and the Manhattan Project, the U.S. is obliged to undertake a major effort in three domains. First, shore up global resilience to infectious disease. . . . Second, strive to heal the wounds to the world economy. . . . Third, safeguard the principles of the liberal world order." He adds, "The world’s democracies need to defend and sustain their Enlightenment values." Similarly, "Restraint is necessary on all sides—in both domestic politics and international diplomacy. Priorities must be established." He concludes, "Now, we live an epochal period. The historic challenge for leaders is to manage the crisis while building the future. Failure could set the world on fire."
Regardless of which of the above views you agree with, or if you have your own, it is indisputable that the world will change dramatically in the coming years. One other thing will be indisputable: We will be the ones making that change. Be prepared!
Friday, April 3, 2020
Emory's biennial conference on the teaching of transactional law and skills is postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis
The transactional skills conference originally scheduled for June 5-6 has not surprisingly been cancelled due to the covid crisis but the organizers tell me they plan to reschedule as soon as the coast is clear. Here is the official announcement from conference coordinator Kelli Pittman:
We hope that all of you are safe and well.
Due to the uncertain length of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to cancel the Transactional Law and Skills Education Conference currently scheduled for June 5-6, 2020.
We will re-schedule the Conference and revisit our theme – “Hindsight, Insight, and Foresight: Transactional Law and Skills Education in the 2020s” – when it is appropriate and safe to do so.
If you have already registered for the Conference, we will refund your money. If you have submitted a proposal or a nomination for the Tina L. Stark Award for Teaching Excellence, you will have the opportunity to resubmit your proposal or nomination when we establish the new Conference date.
If you have already reserved a room at the Emory Conference Center Hotel please call them at 800.933.6679 to cancel your reservation. For other Conference-related questions, please contact our Conference Coordinator, Kelli Pittman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During this period of “social distancing,” we are proud to be members of a community of transactional law and skills educators dedicated to excellence. We look forward to re-scheduling the Conference and welcoming you back to Emory.
When we have more information about a rescheduled date, we'll let you know.
Stay safe everyone.