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October 31, 2007

Apperently being innovative means taking three years to produce a report on innovations

Today's New York Times has this article discussing curriculum reform ideas brewing at law schools.  Here are snippets:

Forget all the jokes about what should be done with the lawyers. What should be done with the law students?  That question is being tackled — seriously — at a variety of law schools around the country as they undertake a broad series of changes to their curriculums.

The changes range from requiring new courses for first-year students to expanding clinical programs to adding electives in the later years to encouraging law students to take courses in other graduate-level programs at their universities.  Harvard Law School announced last year that it would modify its venerable curriculum, and its cross-country rival, Stanford Law School, has begun making changes, too. Columbia Law School began modifying its curriculum in 2003, and the University of New Mexico School of Law made a series of changes starting three years ago and is weighing more.

“When you haven’t changed your curriculum in 150 years, at some point you look around,” said Elena Kagan, the dean of Harvard Law. The impetus for the changes is the sense that what has been taught and how it has been taught may be “embarrassingly disconnected from what anybody does,” Ms. Kagan said.  Those concerns were highlighted in a report on legal education published this year by the Carnegie Foundation....

The report has galvanized reflection at many law schools.  In December, Stanford Law will be the host of a meeting of representatives from 10 schools that have designed innovative curriculums, including the City University of New York School of Law, New York University School of Law and the University of Dayton School of Law.  After the meeting, the group will continue working toward a goal of producing a report in 2010, said Lawrence C. Marshall, a professor at Stanford Law who is coordinating the initiative.

Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr here reprints a colleague's "skeptical response" to the story.  I would add that, if it is going to take three years for a working group just to produce a report on possible curriculum innovations, can we expect any of these innovations to be implemented in our lifetime?

Posted by DAB

October 31, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 30, 2007

Stanford Law Students Rank Law Firm Diversity: Will Clients Notice?

A bunch of law students at Stanford have started assigning letter grades to their prospective employers...

The students are handing out “diversity report cards” to the big law firms, ranking them by how many female, minority and gay lawyers they have.

“Many of the firms have atrocious, appalling records on diversity,” said Michele Landis Dauber, a law professor at Stanford and the adviser for the project, called Building a Better Legal Profession. The rankings are at www.betterlegalprofession.org.

In New York, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton got the top grade, an A-minus. At Cleary, the project says, 48.8 percent of the associates are women, 8.7 percent are black, 8.3 percent are Hispanic and 4.5 percent are openly gay.

Herrick, Feinstein, by contrast, got an F. Its numbers: 37.7 percent women, 4.9 percent black, 1.6 percent Hispanics, and no openly gay people.

... The numbers were provided to a central clearinghouse by the firms themselves. “Our process is simple,” the student group said in explaining its methodology. “Cut, paste and rank.”

Firms in the top fifth received A’s, in the second fifth B’s, and so on. Overall grades were arrived at by averaging grades for partners and associates in five categories: women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and gay people.

The diversity breakdowns have been available to students for at least 15 years, through the NALP guide, which carefully catalogs the number of associates and partners by gender and ethnicity.

I suspect that minorities and women contemplating offers have long scrutinized the NALP reports, especially to see whether there is any viable partnership track for them, as indicated by history.

The Stanford Law Students leading this project have simply offered one kind of aggregation of those detailed numbers, simplifying the analysis for students. This strikes me as a valuable service. Firms that lag seriously in hiring women and minorities are likely to be unattractive for many.

One interesting question is whether the Better Legal Profession grades will become popular among clients. My own anecdotally-derived view is that businesses are ahead of law firms in diversity (is there a law firm equivalent of McKinsey's Rajat Kumar Gupta, Stan O'Neal, or Meg Whitman?), and thus they may be concerned when one of their major vendors seems indifferent to it. They are perhaps less likely to have used the NALP resource previously. But they may become concerned that their law firm receives low marks for diversity.

Cleary, Gottlieb, my old firm, has long sought to improve the diversity of its lawyers, driven in part by enlightened leadership and in part by the fact that a large part of its clientele is foreign.

Anupam Chander

October 30, 2007 in Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 28, 2007

LSI year in review: some (crazy?) ideas for reform

This blog has now been up and running for a full year now, and we are closing in on 250 posts.   (Here is LSI's first post saying hello to the world last October.)  I am hopeful some of my co-bloggers will join with me in some year-in-review posts; this first one will spotlight prior posts noting or suggesting particular reform ideas.  Here goes:

Specific teaching ideas/suggestions:

General curriculum reform ideas/suggestions:

Other ideas and suggestions for law schools:

Obviously, this is only a very small sample of the topics discussed on this blog over the last year.  But these posts generated a significant number of interesting comments, and they highlight the diverse array of issues that jump into the heads of folks interested in law school innovations.

October 28, 2007 in About this blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack