Sunday, October 18, 2020

Happy Birthday to us! The Legal Skills Prof Blog turns 10.


I started the Legal Skills Prof Blog back in the late summer/early fall of 2010 (the visitor counter was added on October 10, 2010, the date we've always used as the "official" start date but my recollection is that it started a bit earlier than that) because I thought at the time there was a need in the legal education blogosphere that wasn't being met elsewhere to create a forum for exchanging ideas and news about legal skills training in law school. At the time, law school enrollments had increased to historic levels while the job market had completely crashed due to the Great Recession of 2009-10. As a result, employers were demanding that law schools do a better job training students to be "practice ready" upon graduation because clients were no longer willing to underwrite the cost of that training as they'd done in the past (e.g., associates tagging along on depos or deal closings to learn by observation since it was routine to add their hours to the final bill). 

Ten years later the country is facing an entirely different kind of crisis, this one health related, while the commitment by law schools to legal skills training and experiential education by now seems to be well-established and a firmly entrenched part of the curriculum. Off the top of my head, several innovations and developments come to mind including the many specialty practice-area certificate programs law schools have begun, the numerous incubator programs intended to teach law students how to actually run a law practice, programs like Law Without Walls, and the fact that magazines like National Jurist now rank law schools based on the practical skills training they provide. 

It's an unfortunate reality of the blogosphere, however, that many blogs begin with the best of intentions yet don't last very long. That's because it's a real grind to maintain them and burn-out is real. As for myself, although I blogged nearly every day for the first 5 or so years, I struggled to keep up that pace when my other job responsibilities threatened to overwhelm me like the year I spent as a visiting prof at USAFA (i.e. an insane work load teaching 3 courses per semester, each having 10 mandatory graded events) or the period that just concluded when I was EIC of Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing). I guess more than anything, I'm probably proudest of my own persistence in keeping this blog going for the past 10 years, through the ups, downs and challenges life throws at us (including a cancer diagnosis and two spine surgeries). It's gratifying to actually create something and see it come alive even if it sometimes feels like a burden. 

Of course, I can't think about this blog without also thinking about and missing my friend Lou Sirico who agreed to help me start it way-back when and who we tragically lost on December 26, 2018. I think of Lou and miss him everyday. Yet I'm also incredibly grateful that Scott Fruehwald joined us many years ago and has done an outstanding job keeping this blog going during the stretches when I couldn't. Thank you, Scott.

I don't know what the future holds or, frankly, how much gas I've got left in the tank. By now I've been teaching legal research and writing for almost 24 years and it definitely takes a physical and mental toll over time (both of which are exacerbated at the moment by the difficulty of teaching via Zoom during a pandemic as I've blogged about here before). But for now, I'm proud of what we've created, it's gratifying to see it last for 10 years, and I'm grateful for the friendships and support of Lou and Scott. I hope the Legal Skills Blog will be around for another 10 years though whether I'll make it that long remains to be seen. ;-)

In the meantime, Happy Birthday to us!


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