Sunday, September 25, 2011

Of interest in The National Law Journal

These recent pieces from The National Law Journal caught my eye this weekend:

September 25, 2011 in Admissions to law school, Legal profession realities and developments, Serving students | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What are the best (and worst) law review websites?

At a production meeting for the Ohio State specialty journal for which I serve as a faculty editor, the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, I told the senior student editors that I believed OSJCL has one of the very best, if not the best, journal website I know.  Here are some of the reasons I make this claim:

1.  All of the OSJCL's content is fully available on-line and for free, and new content from new issues are put up on this website even before the hard-copy journal gets into circulation.

2.  All of OSJCL's content is easy to see an access on the website whether searching by issues, or by authors, or by article title, and all pieces come up as user-friendly pdfs with proper pagination.

3.  The OSJCL website has some additional content beyond the journal's print materials via a special section called OSJCL Amici: Views from the Field.

4.  The OSJCL website includes this page with simple instructions for those interested in submitting drafts for publication consideration and this page with simple instructions (and an on-line form) concerning about subscriptions.

Because a few additional pages of the website are not always subject to timely updating, I think there is still room for improvement at the OSJCL journal website.  Still, because primary hard-copy content is king and because that part of the website is always easy to navigate and completely free to access, I am still prepared to put the OSJCL site in a top tier of law journal websites.

Can readers report other journal websites they really like and/or mention specific features of a journal's website that is especially valuable?  Alternatively, if folks want to call out terrible journal websites or problematic feature of some sites, that would be cool, too.

Posted by DAB

September 21, 2011 in Scholarship -- online, Scholarship -- traditional, Technology -- for advancing scholarship | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Newest Clinic

This semester, I'm doing two unusual things.

First, though I am not a clinical professor, I am starting a clinic here at St. Thomas.  My colleagues and dean have been totally supportive of this transgression of boundaries, and it makes me wonder why we have them so firmly planted in the first place.  My scholarship is in the field of sentencing, and a clinic allows me to extend that scholarship to the real world in a very direct way. 

Second, the clinic itself is unique.  Along with Doug Berman, Margaret Colgate Love, and others, I began discussions a few years ago, focusing on the President's pardon power and how we might work to restore it to a functioning role in the criminal justice system.  As part of that project, I have begun a federal commutation clinic here, where students  will work with clients to prepare petitions for early release.  It's a great task for students, since there is no judicial proceeding to foul up timing, and the core of the job is discerning and describing a compelling narrative-- the same task that is at the core of most  criminal law jobs.

I'll report back as the project continues.

-- Mark Osler




September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Audience for Law School Events

As the new head of the California International Law Center (CILC), I find myself thinking about the audience for the events I now host at the Law School.  The Law School student body at Davis is 600, the student body on the campus at large is more than 30,000.  Yet, I suspect that a non-law student in the audience of a public lecture remains rather rare. Given the fact that many talks are intended for a general audience, rather than for those steeped in legal knowledge, I often feel that the general university community is missing opportunities for edification.

Is this true of law schools around the country? Do some law schools make stronger (or more successful) efforts to promote events to a broader community?  Should law schools work with other units to promote events? Are there good ways to publicize events of interest to the broader community interested in environmental issues, or international legal issues, or technology law issues?  I suspect that the answers will lie (seemingly paradoxically) in both the Internet and in personal contacts.

Anupam Chander

September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Should law schools teach how the best lawyers and law firms use the internet?

Debates about adequate skills instruction have raged for decades within and outside law school.  Less debated, though no less important, is whether law schools are teaching their students the right kinds of lawyering skills.  My own experience as both a law student and a law professor leads me to believe and fear that law schools too often focus on teaching the next generation of lawyers the most critical skills of the last generation of lawyers.

Those who went to law school around the time I was a student (1990 to 1993) likely recall the debate over whether and how students should be allowed access to computer research sources like Westlaw and Lexis or instead needed to be taught how to "only use the books."  Savvy students (but very few faculty) at the time appreciated that computer-based research skills we ultimately likely to be much more important to our future than book-based skills.  Nevertheless, back then (and still it seems two decades later), commercial providers like West and Lexis supplied much more (and much more effective) training in computer research than did my law school.

This recent article by Robert Algeri in the The National Law Journal, which is headlined "The future of the law firm website: Your website will become bigger, more important — and more focused on the needs of individual attorneys," has me thinking about these realities and prompted the question in the title of this post. Here is how the piece starts:

After a half-century of remarkable stability and steady growth, the legal industry got hit by a ton of bricks called the Great Recession. Several years after the initial shock, it is clear that this downturn wasn't just a momentary blip, but a rather sizable shift in the business landscape. As a result, law firms are being forced to reconsider many aspects of how they do business.

What does all this mean for legal marketing? Lots.      During the past two years, my colleagues and I have studied the Great Recession's effects on legal marketing and law firm Web sites.  Our conclusion is that the law firm Web site is about to undergo a revolution. Specifically, we expect law firm Web sites to:

• Become more valuable....

• Become bigger....

• Focus more on attorneys....

Web sites already play a vital role in law firm business development. Numerous studies show this.  However, I strongly believe that they will become even more important--nearly as important as face-to-face meetings.  Why?  Because face-to-face meetings will happen less and less.

The legal business has traditionally been locally focused, with clients and the firm often located within 25 miles of one another.  That's changing. The Internet and related technologies have made it much more practical to work long distance.  But that's the least of it: Our culture is also changing. 

I could say a lot about the long-standing failure of law schools to help students better understand the business of law and the provision of legal services.  Those broader concerns aside, given the tight legal marketplace and changing legal and technological environments, are law schools uniquely deficient for not helping students better appreciate when and how modern lawyers use the internet?

Posted by DAB

September 12, 2011 in Legal profession realities and developments, Serving students, Teaching -- curriculum, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Interesting comments from Dean Chemerinsky on his "Ideal Law School for the 21st Century"

I just came across this article on SSRN titled "The Ideal Law School for the 21st Century."  The piece is authored by Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the new UC Irvine law school, and it describes his experiences starting the school and his "vision" for UCI Law School.   Here is one passage discussing this vision I found especially blog-worthy:

I felt from the outset that if we simply replicated other law schools we will have failed. There is not a need for another law school like all of the others that already exist.  I felt from the outset that if we simply replicated other law schools we will have failed.  There is not a need for another law school like all of the others that already exist.

My central vision is that I want us to do the best possible job of preparing students for the practice of law at the highest levels of the profession.  I certainly did not graduate from law school ready to practice law. On my first day at my first job after graduating from law school, as a trial attorney at the United States Department of Justice, my supervising lawyer told me that an answer to a particular question could be found in the local rules of the federal district court.  I did not know that there were local rules of the federal district.

Law schools do many things well, including teaching students skills such as the ability to read cases and construct legal arguments, and instructing students on the doctrines in many areas of law. But as many reports have noted, law schools are far less successful in preparing students for the practice of law.There are many reasons for this.  I believe that elite law schools have long eschewed this as a primary objective.  Long ago, they adopted the mantra that they teach students to think like lawyers and leave practical training for after graduation.

Also, the nature of most law school classes, a single instructor in front of a large number of students, does not lend itself to training in skills.  This format of instruction works for conveying information, but skills cannot be learned in this way.  No one would learn how to be a tennis player or a play a musical instrument by exclusively or primarily sitting in a classroom; that is true of any skill.  More subtly, having a single instructor in front of a large number of students limits most evaluations in law school to the grade from a single final examination.  No skills are taught by this experience; there is not even good instruction on the skill of taking law school exams because generally students receive no feedback other than a grade about their performance.

I also fear that the lack of skills training in most law schools is, in part, because most law school faculty are not equipped or oriented towards doing this.  The trend over the last couple of decades, especially in elite schools, is to hire individuals with Ph.D.s, but with no practice experience.  Even those who have practiced before going into teaching generally have done so for only a very short time.  I have observed that very few faculty at elite law schools are actively engaged in the practice of law.  My impression is that this has decreased over the thirty years that I have been an academic, partially because publication and other demands have increased and partially because those being hired are less oriented towards doing so.

Posted by DAB

September 10, 2011 in Teaching -- new courses, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Moral Hazard of Big Law Firms

When I look through resumes of those hoping to become law professors, I usually find one common element:  A short stay (1-4 years, usually) at a large law firm.  Why did these people leave after that time?  Some, no doubt, were pushed out.  The others decided to switch career tracks on their own, despite success at the firm.  Given that these are smart, well-educated, successful lawyers, why is it that law firms lose them so readily?

The short answer (based on the experience of those I know) is that many of them are miserable working at large law firms, despite the high rate of pay.  It is soul-less and unfulfilling for these top achievers.

Are we doing the right thing in pushing our top students towards these jobs?  In the context of students with a strong Christian faith (and those of other faiths as well), I think it may be a disservice to both that student and the firm.  Recently, I wrote a short book review for the Journal of Christian Legal Thought, reviewing a wonderful book by John Allegretti called The Lawyer's Calling,  Here is the conclusion of that review:

We must be peacemakers...

This may not seem a remarkable thesis, but at its heart is a bedrock rejection of the business practices of those very law firms we send so many of our best and brightest students into. Of course those firms are amoral at best; they are structured that way, and present economic circumstances have only made that worse. We can pretend that this isn’t true, but those of us who have spent time in large firms know better. Neither should we continue to lie to our students, saying or implying that the practice of most large law firms is consistent with the Christian faith. An amoral environment, especially for the powerless junior associate, is anathema to faith, to the idea of vocation, and to the ethic of love.

Allegretti’s book is practical, but it directs us to a nearly impossible challenge: To undo the primary business structure in our field, or at least decline to any longer feed that beast with the bodies and souls of our young. Are we that brave?

I realize that my critique is probably too broad.  I think there ARE law firms that foster healthy vocations for lawyers of faith; I also know that some of my best friends are people of faith who work in good conscience at large firms. 

But still, as a general matter, isn't there something there?

-- Mark Osler




September 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Should you go far away to a higher ranked law school?

Above The Law makes the common claim:

“In most situations, going to the highest ranked U.S. News school that you can is going to be really important for your career.”

It's not clear to me that that is truly the case.  Does it make sense for someone in California to journey across the country to attend a law school that is a few ticks up on the US News ranking?  My suspicion is that, with the exception of the truly national schools--something akin to the top ten or so law schools in the country--most law schools are ultimately regional. That is, I suspect that their graduates generally end up working at firms in the same state--or in states adjacent to--the state of the law school they attend.

Ted Seto has done some important empirical work demonstrating this. In his paper, Where Do Partners Come From?, he argues that one should often choose a law school located in the geographic area in which one hopes to work.

As a professor, I often talk with applicants about how to realize their life goals. I recall in particular a student attempting to choose between Vanderbilt and the school at which I teach – Loyola Los Angeles. His ambition was to become a big-firm partner in Los Angeles. As students often do, he chose the higher U.S. News-ranked school. When he graduated from Vanderbilt, he was unable even to get an interview in LA. Had he attended Loyola, his paper credentials and performance at Vanderbilt suggest that he would have graduated near the top of his class. If he had, his chances of getting a Los Angeles big-firm offer would have been quite high. Again, based on the results of the study reported in this article, I can

Those deciding between law schools might do well to examine the list of firms that actually come calling to that law school's recruitment week.  For the most part, it is uneconomical for a firm to send partners to interview candidates in distant jurisdictions, because few students from those distant locations may be inclined to move to that firm's city. Staying within the state is likely to prove more efficient, in terms of partner time.

Anupam Chander

September 6, 2011 in Employment, Rankings | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Identifying the disconnect at the center of the "law school scam"

I still continue to find Inside the Law School Scam an interesting and useful read, and this passage from a recent post comparing law schools to other graduate programs (and some follow-up comments) has helped me to see the heart of the problem that keeps pumping blood though the modern legal education market and has allowed the so-called "law school scam" to develop and continue.  First the passage from ILSS (with my emphasis added), then my explanation:

[It] is an interesting comparison [between law schools and the huge recent expansion of creative writing MFA programs], although in some ways an obviously inapt one.   No one goes into an MFA program intending to make lots of money.  Indeed it's notable that such programs never focus on producing successful genre writers -- i.e., the next Stephen King or John Grisham -- but are rather dedicated almost exclusively to literary fiction. Nor, as far as I know, do MFA programs engage in industry-wide placement stat deception.  (Unlike business schools I know something about these programs because my best friend and his wife are graduates of one).  The biggest distinction between law schools and MFA programs goes to the crucial issue of what economists call psychic income.  Lots of people grow up hoping to write the Great American Novel.  Nobody grows up hoping to one day be Henry Kravis's water carrier on a big M&A deal.  People go to law school, with occasional exceptions, in order to acquire a respectable and well-paid career.  MFA programs cater to peoples' dreams.  Law school is where dreams go to die (Yes I'm generalizing).

Implicit in this passage are three critical contentions/assumptions about the professional thinking of some (many? most?) law students: (1) students go to law school intending to "make lots of money" (not because they dream of practicing law), (2) students expect that "average" performance at an "average" law school will result in a in a "respectable and well-paid career," and (3) students rely on deceptive law school placement stats to justify these decisions and expectations.

I trust some (many? most?) law students — especially those who are most aggrieved and vocal in their complains about the "law school scam" — would endorse these three critical contentions/assumptions and agree they help explain why so many recent graduates are now so upset that they "invested" so much in law school and are now not getting a fair (or any) return on that investment.

Changing perspectives, let me articulate what I suspect to be professional thinking of some (many? most?) law professors: (A) students interested primarily in making money should go to business school (because only those with lawyer dreams will be happy lawyers), (B) students with "average" grades at an "average" law school can find legal jobs, but they will need to "pick up their game" in practice to have a "well-paid" legal career, and (C) students who make serious and savvy efforts to find a legal job will eventually get a legal job.  

Perhaps I am wrong to assert that others would embrace points A, B, and C above, but these realities account for why I personally have not been attuned to "law school scam" complaints until quite recently.  I have long believed that (A) those who went to law school for "the wrong reasons" were unlikely to be happy no matter their professional success, (B) my "average" students could and would find legal work at a living wage, and (C) I can help my students land a legal job if they are serious and savvy in their efforts.  (Indeed, I still hold these views, though I now better understand that (too) many law students may be in it "just for the money" and that the recession has made it much harder for "average" students to find legal work at a living wage.  But while these students may often feel "scammed," they do not often come by my office to ask for job-hunting advice.  I often have "top" students coming for job advice, typically to ask which of two job opportunities they ought to pursue, which I now realize greatly distorts my perspective on the legal job market.)

Not to be overlooked here is the inevitable affinity for law schools to spotlight — in recruiting materials and alumni publications — their most successful and happy graduates and to "hide" their least successful and miserable graduates.  A coming attractions even for a lousy Jack Black movie creates the (deceptive?) impression everyone should spend money on that movie even though only Jack Black fans will be content with the product.  (This preview metaphor justifies greater transparency in law school employment data — i.e., studios should not "scam" Brad Pitt fans into paying to see a Jack Black movie by having the whole preview focus on a tiny Brad Pitt cameo.  But this metaphor might help students appreciate the unique (insulated) perspective of law professors: law profs are essentially Jack Black fans (read, law geeks) who assume the only folks paying for their movie (law school) are fellow Jack Black fans who should still appreciate the experience even though better movies (other professional opportunities) might be at the Cineplex.)

So, even as I grow more aware/attune to the "law school scam" and suffering grads, I still have a hard time viewing law professors as avaricious Ponzi schemers eager to drive students into a lifetime of debt to fund a lavish lifestyle.  Instead, I see a group of well-meaning service-providers (law professors/schools) working earnestly to provide what they consider a valuable non-economic service ("teaching students how to think like a lawyer") to some people who are paying a lot of money (law students) problematically believing they are getting a valuable economic service ("becoming a practicing lawyer").   

To the extent that deceptive placement stats fuel this disconnect between the "law school service" most law professors seek to provide and what some (many? most?) law students actually want and expect, more honest employment data should help considerably.  But if one fears (as I do) that much bigger societal and human psychology forces are in play, more honest employment data is just a first step on a long journey toward a sounder legal education system.

Posted by DAB

September 5, 2011 in Admissions to law school, Blogging by lawyers and law professors, Legal profession realities and developments, Serving students, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores"

Because of my enduring interest in the relationship between technology and education, I found notable this recent article from the New York Times (with the same headline as this post).  Here is a snippet that follows a discussion of a tech-heavy seventh-grade classroom experience:

[S]chools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.  This conundrum calls into question one of the most significant contemporary educational movements. Advocates for giving schools a major technological upgrade — which include powerful educators, Silicon Valley titans and White House appointees — say digital devices let students learn at their own pace, teach skills needed in a modern economy and hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets.

Some backers of this idea say standardized tests, the most widely used measure of student performance, don’t capture the breadth of skills that computers can help develop. But they also concede that for now there is no better way to gauge the educational value of expensive technology investments.

“The data is pretty weak. It’s very difficult when we’re pressed to come up with convincing data,” said Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an investor in educational technology companies. When it comes to showing results, he said, “We better put up or shut up.”

And yet, in virtually the same breath, he said change of a historic magnitude is inevitably coming to classrooms this decade: “It’s one of the three or four biggest things happening in the world today.”

Critics counter that, absent clear proof, schools are being motivated by a blind faith in technology and an overemphasis on digital skills — like using PowerPoint and multimedia tools — at the expense of math, reading and writing fundamentals.  They say the technology advocates have it backward when they press to upgrade first and ask questions later.

Regular readers know I have been asserting for some time that greater use of technology in law school instruction is inevitable; I have also been troubled by what I see as the "Luddite instincts" of some professors who are quick and eager to ban laptops in the classroom.  Perhaps usefully, this article reminds me that nearly every time I see something new about technology and education, I become less sure of their proper relationship.  

Posted by DAB

September 5, 2011 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Imagining a "Lawyer Peace Corps" or "Lawyering for America" to do good while helping new law grads to better

I continue to find thought-provoking the posts and comments over at Inside the Law School Scam, as well as some of the still active student scam-blogs.  And, via these sources, I sense there is growing mainstream discussion of modern legal education costs/benefits within the legal profession, as evidenced by these recent pieces from the Chicago Lawyer and the Connecticut Law Tribune:

As I keep read these blogs and keep hear stories of successful recent law students having no success finding jobs upon graduation, I keep thinking about the very large number of (mostly poor) persons with unmet legal needs in the United States.  As the title of this post suggests, I cannot help but imagine the creation of some mass program for young lawyers to do good work — whether modeled on programs like the Peace Corps or Teach for America — as a means of helping unemployed recent law grads do better by doing good.

As a criminal law professor who specializes in sentencing issues, I am most attuned to the huge number of criminal defendants and ex-offenders — literally millions of Americans — who could benefit greatly from legal advice but who, for financial or others reasons, completely lack access to lawyers or are underserved by (overworked) appointed lawyers.  And I know that lawyers surely could be helping (mostly poor) people struggling with many modern American social challenges — challenges ranging from foreclosure problems, to immigration issues, to family law matters, to health care coverage, to access to education and professional opportunities.

In other words, our society now has a glut of underemployed junior lawyers and a glut of underserved legal needs.  The private legal marketplace — for many reasons, though mostly because the people with the most needs have the least money — seems unable to connect these potential service-providers and these legal needs.  But a well-structured government program or public-policy-group initiative could and should be able to do much better in connecting the potential legal service-providers with all the persons need these services.

I can think of lots of different ways to potentially structure a "Lawyer Peace Corps" or a "Lawyering for America" program — e.g., new grads could have government debts slashed for being in the program a certain number of years, some law schools (or particular classes/clinics) could serve as formal feeders. But I can also think of a lot of potential objections/problems — e.g., might junior lawyers with limited training make some legal problems worse for those now without lawyers?

For now, I just wanted to throw the idea out and see if I can get any reactions (at least from my co-bloggers).

Posted by DAB

September 1, 2011 in Blogging by lawyers and law professors, Legal profession realities and developments, Service -- legal profession, Serving students, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Think [And Practice] Like a Lawyer: Legal Research for the New Millennials"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper by Aliza Kaplan and Kathleen Darvil, which is available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

It is time to heed the calls for legal education reform.  In our changing economy, new attorneys need to be properly trained in law school to be competent at providing effective legal services for their employers and clients.  Law schools must remain open to and interested in legal reform; they must partner with practitioners to incorporate more practical skills into the law school curriculum.

Updating how we teach legal research by making it accord more with how attorneys actually conduct and use legal research in practice will help accomplish this and will also more actively engage our Millennial students.  There is no question that making some timely changes to legal research instruction would better prepare new attorneys to be competent practicing lawyers and would be a win-win for students, law schools and employers.

August 31, 2011 in Teaching -- curriculum, Teaching -- pedagogy, Teaching Resources, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Does three years in law school have "value" other than as the means to a professional degree?

The question in the title of this post keeps coming to my mind as I read posts and comments over at Inside the Law School Scam, as well as discussions at various scam-blogs in which the basic theme is that the huge debt law schools require (encourage?) students to incur is a scam because there are no (well-paying) law jobs to be found.  In this recent post, LawProf does an armchair cost/benefit assessment of the potential professional "return" on a law degree investment priced at $300K in terms of actual and opportunity costs.  Missing from the LawProf analysis (as he concedes) is any discussion of the potential "value" of law school (and of being a lawyer) other than as the means to a profession degree that could (but may not) increase one's earning power/potential.

Two subsequent posts by Law Prof with the following comments, in turn, has me really wondering about the "value" of the (expensive) modern three-year law school experience:

That law is an unhappy profession has more to do with factors that law schools can do little about...

The vast majority of law students are in no way interested in paying $150,000 for a three-year continuation of their liberal arts education.  They didn't go to law school because they wanted to go to graduate school to study law.  They went to law school (leaving aside those who are killing time because they have no real idea what they want to do) because they were presented with a barrier to entry to the practice of law that required them to go to school for three more years, period, full stop.

I know some practicing lawyers who would agree that "law is an unhappy profession," but I also know many more practicing lawyers who really like their jobs (and not merely because they make more than a living wage).  But putting aside the important question of whether law really is "an unhappy profession," this premise necessarily casts a completely different light on the "value" and vices of modern legal education.  If law practice really is an "unhappy profession," law schools would seem to justify praise for giving students as a last bit of (expensive) fun (or at least ease) before they have to enter the "unhappy" profession in the real-world.

Moreover, at the same time I seriously question the premise that "law is an unhappy profession," I also question the suggestion that most new law students know where and how they wanted to "practice law" (as opposed to just knowing they want to have a good white-collar job in a certain region).  The real "value" I see in the modern law school program is to provide a (comfortable?) space, significant time and considerable resources to enable bright young people (or second career people) to figure out just what "practicing law" might really mean for them.

Put differently, in addition to believing modern law schools provide a solid education in what I would call "advanced American civics," I also believe modern law schools provide a good opportunity for bright young people (or second career people) to find out about different ways they might make a living from being bright as a lawyer.  To me, this is especially key to the "value" of law school programs lasting three years: most think-like-a-lawyer training can be achieved during the 1L year, but the following two years provide space, time, and resources for students figure out where and how they can find a "happy" place within what for (too) many may be an "unhappy profession."

That all said, students are often paying a lot (roughly $100K if they are paying full tuition) for the opportunity to explore what law practice might mean for them over their final 2 years in law school.  Moreover, if those final two years end up further limiting a student's professional options after graduation (because of bad grades or other factors), I fully understand considerable post-graduation frustration.  

Still, I know from my own experiences that I benefited personally and professionally from having extra time in law school to figure out my own professional goals (though my concerns about the loans accrued were diminished by a decent lawyer job market in the 1990s).  And here I wanted to supplement my co-blogger's recent post on the good things about the 3L year, as well as encourage readers to share their perspectives on the "value" (and/or vices) of a relatively long modern law school program.

Posted by DAB

August 29, 2011 in Blogging by lawyers and law professors, Legal profession realities and developments, Teaching -- curriculum, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Modeling Discourse

Our first year students are in residence here at St. Thomas, a week before everyone else, and are undergoing an intensive orientation.

As part of that orientation, I participated in a fascinating exercise:  I debated one of my primary adversaries on an important sentencing issue, in order to model civil discourse for these new students. 

The subject was the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for juveniles.  I am against this sentence in all cases, while my opponent, Jeanne Bishop, is a proponent of its use in appropriate instances.  Her view is informed, in part, by the deaths of her pregant sister and brother-in-law, who were shot by a 16-year-old and is now serving that sentence.  In 2009, I testified in Congress opposite her sister, Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins.

To get a taste of the debate, you can hear an NPR report here, and see a television report here.


-- Mark Osler

August 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Diversity in Deans: A Workshop at Seattle U. School of Law

Seattle University School of Law through its Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, University of Washington School of Law, and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), offer this biennial workshop to encourage and assist members of underrepresented groups to pursue deanships and other university and law school leadership positions. The workshop will help you

  • Determine whether you want to be a dean and find the right time and place to pursue a deanship;
  • Understand the nuts and bolts of the dean's role;
  • Prepare yourself to be a successful dean candidate;
  • Learn how to negotiate the terms of your appointment and ensure a successful transition to the decanal role;
  • Determine what other forms of university and law school leadership roles may be right for you.

This workshop is suggested not only for those considering deaning, but also for those who are planning an upcoming dean search and for those who work closely with the dean, including associate deans.

Anupam Chander

August 26, 2011 in Diversity, Law School Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Clinical Professors' Professional Responsibility: Preparing Law Students to Embrace Pro Bono"

The title of this post is the title of this new piece by Professor Douglas Colbert, which is now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This article begins by examining the current crisis in the U.S. legal system where approximately three out of four low- and middle-income litigants are denied access to counsel's representation when faced with the loss of essential rights -- a home, child custody, liberty and deportation -- and where most lawyers decline to fulfill their ethical responsibility of pro bono service to those who cannot afford private counsel.  The article traces the evolving ethical standards of a lawyer's professional responsibility that today views every attorney as a public citizen having a special responsibility to the quality of justice.

The author suggests that law professors assume a critical role in law students' decision to embrace or reject its pro bono ethical obligation.  The author focuses on clinical faculty and suggests that its leadership within the academy will be crucial to bridge colleagues' world of theory and doctrine, and to connect with practicing lawyers.  He illustrates clinical faculty's unique opportunity to incorporate the Model Rules of Professional Conduct by referring to the law reform and individual representation work that his clinical students perform.  The author concludes by declaring clinical education presents an ideal opportunity for teaching students to appreciate their professional responsibility to promote access to justice and to embrace pro bono service as an integral element of a lawyer's professional life.

The reality discussed in this piece that "three out of four low- and middle-income litigants lack access to counsel when faced with the loss of essential right" shines an important light on the reality(?) discussed in this recent post that law school are now apparently graduating far too many persons each year given the limited number of new legal jobs that develop each year.  Though there may not be a large number of new legal jobs to sustain all the new lawyers coming into the market, there remains no shortage of serious (and mostly unmet) legal needs in US society.  (I plan to say more on this topic soon, in part because it is this reality that draws me to the view that law students truly interest in practicing law should feel more "scammed" by "career services" departments than by the law school as a whole.)

Posted by DAB

August 25, 2011 in Legal profession realities and developments, Service -- legal profession, Teaching -- pedagogy, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Given modern labor realities, should law schools admit fewer students? Fail more out?

Applicants-Enroll 2010

If nothing else, this new blog authored by (once anonymous) LawProf called "Inside the Law School Scam" has generated some useful discussion throughout the law professor blogosphere about the current realities of law school and legal employment.  And the take-away data I found most notable and important in this context comes from this (under-reported?) New York Times piece from two months ago indicating that US law school each and every year are now graduating roughly two new lawyers for every one new legal job.  (Kudos to Brian Tamanaha for spotlighting these important data (and for the chart reprinted here) via this post at Balkinization titled "The Coming Crunch for Law Schools.")  

In light of this current significant over-supply of junior lawyers seeking jobs in legal fields with only half the opennings needed for full employment (a market problem which has arguably been going on now for numerous years), it is unsurprising that now only the most highly-ranked students and highly-ranked schools are still able to easily find acceptable legal employment and in turn have the resources need to pay off large accumulated student debt.  And, now with a glut of tens of thousands of recent law school grads who are unemployed or underemployed and yet still likely to keep seeking legal opportunities, it seems unlikely that even a huge improvement in the economy will create enough new law jobs for the seemingly ever-increasing number of new law school grads.

With an eye on these market realities, Brian and Gerard Magliocca in recent posts are exploring why there seems still to be a huge demand for law school access as reflected in law school application rates:

  • Gerald asks here, "Why did you decide to go to law school?"
  • Brian asks here "How Inelastic is Demand for Law School? (Testing The Limits)"

Though I think the law school demand side is a very important component of this story, the question in the title of this post is meant to urge discussion of the law school supply side.  In particular, I would like to hear view from anyone inside or outside the law school marketplace as to whether law schools ought to be, in light of modern labor realities, significantly reduce the sizes of their graduating classes either by letting in many fewer students or failing out many more students before these students accumulate huge law school debts.

In a future post, I will set forth my own innovative proposal for how I think modern law schools should try to deal with these issues.  In the meantime, though, I am hoping to generate some feedback on these basic questions.

Posted by DAB

August 24, 2011 in Admissions to law school, Legal profession realities and developments, Serving students, Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Some Good Things About a Third Year in Law School

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Christopher Shea usefully seeks to turn the blawgosphere's attention from "Is Law School a Scam?" issue to other important questions--like "Is the Third Year of Law School a Scam?"  That's not actually the way he characterizes his question, of course. He frames it in a less hyperbolic way.

I thought I might offer a few reasons why the third year of law school is useful--in the form of a Letterman Top Ten list. Of course, these ten reasons could be counterweighed by even more numerous or stronger arguments on the other side.

10. Given the lack of resources (or incentive) of private law firms to engage in training, a third year allows one to take advanced courses in a variety of subjects. I, for example, took Advanced Civil Procedure in my last term (with the great Geoff Hazard, now a part of the incomparable UC family).

9. A third year allows one to experiment by taking courses in new areas, perhaps opening one's eyes to areas of the law that might not have seemed initially appealing.

8. Having finished taking most bar classes, a student can now finally take courses related to his or her passions.

7. Third year students run a variety of programs essential to the law school curriculum, like Moot Court or Barrister's Union.

6. Having a third year allows one two summers while enrolled as a student, thus giving one the opportunity to experiment with two different firms, two different cities, or two different kinds of legal practice.

5. A third year allows one to write and publish notes in the Law Journal, thus improving one's research and writing skills dramatically.

4. In many schools still, the first year is almost entirely spoken for with mandatory courses. A third year gives one longer opportunity to actually study the areas one is keen to study.

3. A third year allows one to serve as a research assistant to law professors, thus building an important relationship with someone who might be a good mentor.

2. Without third year law students, the legal academy would lose those who run student-edited law reviews, the principal means for distributing legal scholarship. 

1. By the time of third year, you finally know where the best bars are. (Okay, most folks probably figured this out during their first week of law school. It just took me longer.)

What would you miss most if you never had a third year in law school? Alternatively, why do you think a third year was unnecessary?

Anupam Chander


August 22, 2011 in Serving students, Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

IAALS launches new program called "Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers"

6059929829_79278f1731 Via e-mail I received this annoucement of note about legal education reform, which gets started this way:

The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) at the University of Denver today launches a unique, national initiative to change the way law schools educate students. “Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers” provides a platform to encourage law schools in the U.S. to showcase innovative teaching to produce more practice-ready lawyers who can better meet the needs of an evolving profession.

Rebecca Love Kourlis is the Executive Director of IAALS and a former Colorado Supreme Court justice. “Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers leverages the Carnegie Model of learning,” Kourlis says. “Our project provides support for shared learning, innovation, ongoing measurement and collective implementation. We are very excited to launch this project to encourage new ways to train law students and to measure innovation in the years to come.”

William M. Sullivan is the Director of “Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers.” He also is the lead author of the 2007 Carnegie Foundation report, Educating Lawyers. “Our goal is to encourage law schools that are already committed to innovation to share what they know in a structured, collaborative place so that other law professors may discuss and develop new teaching techniques,” Sullivan says.

IAALS will manage this initiative, the first of its kind in the country. The initiative is partnering with a growing number of law schools in a consortium committed to innovative teaching.

The website for Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers is interesting and seems to have some useful contents, though I do not yet see just why the website (or this companion blog) ought to become a regular stop for law professors or law students.

Posted by DAB

August 22, 2011 in Deans and innovations, Teaching -- curriculum, Teaching -- pedagogy, Teaching Resources, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Seeking comments/thoughts in this (safe?) forum on law school scam blogging and ITLSS

Prompted in part by this new blog authored by the anonymous LawProf called "Inside the Law School Scam," and in part by a terrific former student who has been sending me e-mails with his perspective on the legal marketplace and law school realities, I have been giving extra thought of late to the concept of the modern law school as a scam.  This bit of extra thinking, in turn, has led me to read a bit more regularly a few of the sizeable number of law student scam blogs, such as:

I have lots of reactions to all this buzz about law school as a scam, but for now I just wanted to create a space here for discussion of these issues if anyone is interested in having a dialogue in a setting whether the rhetoric and emotion (and stakes?) are not running so high.

Posted by DAB

UPDATE:  The anonymous LawProf running the blog "Inside the Law School Scam" has now been outed as Professor Paul Campos at Colorado.  And Paul Caron has an extraordinary helpful round-up of all the buzzing in this post.

August 18, 2011 in Blogging by lawyers and law professors, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)