February 15, 2008
William Mitchell's New Business Practice Legal Practicum
The Business Practice Legal Practicum will train students to represent clients in business matters through a hands-on approach. William Mitchell Professor John Sonsteng and adjunct faculty member Karen Lundquist, ’05 are co-directors. Details. -- Joe Hodnicki
New Teaching Blog - The BLT
Elon University Law School, the home of Professor Steve Friedland, has starting a new blog on Learning and Teaching, "affectionately known as the BLT." "The blog is intended to serve as a forum for law teachers, students, administrators and practitioners to share different perspectives on how learning can be improved in law schools."
ellen s. podgor
February 14, 2008
International Conference on the Future of Legal Education
Next week (Feb 20-23) is the International Conference on the Future of Legal Education, being held at Georgia State College of Law. The conference program ostensibly focuses this year on "ways to implement one or more of the central recommendations of the Carnegie Report." Together with Christian Turner of the University of Georgia, I'll be presenting on eLangdell and the future of legal education casebooks. Matthew Brodie, whose article (The Future of the Casebook) we'll also be presenting, will happily be absent as his family has just expanded (congrat's Matt!). Our panel is on Thursday afternoon, 2:00-3:15 pm; I'll do my best to capture salient parts of it if the conference planners don't do so.
(I have to confess that the conference's bias towards presenting papers runs quite against the strategy of change that Martha Minow recommended at AALS: process, not reports. Hopefully, though, the workshops will organize around specific recommendations and hammer out next steps rather than just wander around in abstractland).
- Gene Koo
February 13, 2008
Up against political limits
For those who haven't heard, William & Mary president Gene Nichol has stepped down immediately after his contract was not renewed, and the governing board and President Nichol have given somewhat contrasting stories as to what happened. Both explanations are available at the W & M web site. Nichol was previously the dean of UNC's law school, and will now revert to being a law professor at William and Mary (my undergrad alma mater).
Two controversies precipitated the non-renewal of Nichols' contract. First, he removed a cross from an altar at a chapel on campus to another display area. Second, he did not ban an art exhibit that included the work of prostitutes. Notably, William and Mary is a state school which has been trying to become more diverse and open in its approach to education and the academic world. At the same time, it does appear that both sides made some questionable choices in addressing these issues.
This episode runs close to a topic I find fascinating: The relationship between risk-taking within the academy and the political and economic reaction to those risks by conservative alums and supporters. [Jim Chen had a great response to one of my prior posts on this topic, available here]. One premise of this blog is that risk-taking is not only good but an important aspect of the legal academy. This view is sometimes in tension with the increasing importance of development, which can depend on relationships with some of the most risk-averse graduates and supporters of an institution. The fragility of that balance seems to have played out to the long-term detriment of the institution in the case of William and Mary.
-- Mark Osler
February 10, 2008
If you build it (around SCOTUS), they will come
The latest issue of the ABA Journal has this interesting article discussing perhaps the most significant innovation in elite law schools in recent years: the development of Supreme Court litigation clinics. The entire article merits a close read by any and all wanna-be law school innovators, and I found these excerpts particularly interesting:
Since Stanford Law School launched the first such clinic in 2004, others have followed: Northwestern, Yale, the University of Texas and the University of Virginia began theirs in 2006; Harvard and New York University kicked off last fall.
The clinics function as miniature pro bono law firms, tackling cases concerning criminal and discrimination issues, as well as laws governing voting rights and maritime jurisdiction. Typically, their clients are petitioners lacking the resources to move up the appellate chain without the assistance of eager students, full-time faculty and dedicated outside practitioners willing to give their time.
But the clinics share something else. All have allied with well-known Supreme Court practitioners and their law firms. The advantage is mutual: Top-tier law schools gain a glamorous clinic to offer students and to appeal to applicants in an increasingly competitive market.
Faced also with a shrinking Supreme Court docket, firms are going all out to seek opportunities to appear before the justices. Meanwhile, law firms — facing their own competition for high-powered clients and the most talented grads — get a leg up on recruiting as well as an additional labor pool.... Not that the law firms realize a profit from the clinics; on the contrary, the students require a large commitment of nonbillable hours from the overseeing attorneys. With the focus on developing skills using real cases and with a strong emphasis on writing, students often have to rework documents numerous times before they are ready for submission....
Most of the clinics bring students to Washington at least once to hear oral arguments on Supreme Court cases with which they have assisted. Harvard goes a step further, offering students the opportunity to spend their winter term in Washington working with attorneys from O'Melveny & Myers.
And while few students will go on to seek careers as Supreme Court litigators, students and faculty alike agree that the experience offers invaluable training. “My biggest goal when I come out is to be prepared to handle appellate litigation — not to be surprised by the process,” says Richard Kirkendall, a 25-year-old student attending the clinic at Northwestern. “I think it’s a good opportunity to see the full litigation process.”
I have worked directly with a number of these clinics on a number of different projects, and I cannot overstate the value that elite law schools and elite law firms are adding to both the development of important legal ideas and the development of the profession.
That all said, I hope the SCOTUS clinic model can and will be expanded to focus on appellate litigation opportunities and needs outside the beltway. Every state has its own version of the Supreme Court (some even have two), and I think (only elite?) state law schools would be wise to seriously consider the development of state Supreme Court litigation clinics. Similarly, there are over a dozen federal courts of appeals that all could benefit from the time and energy that law schools and their professors and student could devote to their major cases (especially when these cases go en banc). I think lots of law school — especially those in or around the main location of a federal circuit court — would be wise to seriously consider the development of federal appellate circuit litigation clinics.
If any of this work is already on-going in school beyond those discussed in the ABA article, I would be grateful to hear reports from the field.
Posted by DAB