Thursday, August 18, 2011

"What if law schools opened their own law firms?"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting article in The National Law Journal, which begins this way:

Law schools have been pummeled with criticism for not producing practice-ready attorneys, so two law professors have come up with a novel fix: Law schools should operate their own law firms.

The school-owned firms would provide a training ground for recent graduates, but would function much like a normal firm, Brooklyn Law School Professor Bradley Borden and University of Maryland School of Law Professor Robert Rhee wrote in an article entitled, "The Law School Firm."  The piece will appear in a forthcoming issue of the South Carolina Law Review.

Borden and Rhee acknowledged that their idea constitutes a "radical" change from the existing law school model, but they contend that these firms would help recent graduates gain the skills they need to be successful at little expense — and possibly a profit — to law schools.

The firms would be entities distinct from the law schools, and would be professionally managed and generate revenue, although they would be operated as nonprofits. Senior attorneys would be hired to oversee the firms' practice areas, and recent law school graduates would spend fixed periods, perhaps three or six years, at the firm before moving on.

The concept is similar to that of judicial clerkships, Rhee said, in that freshly minted attorneys would spend a fixed amount of time at the firm and face no stigma when they leave.  Being in an actual, functioning law firm would offer a far more immersive learning experience than students could find in the classroom or even in a law school clinic, he said.

The law review article referenced above is now available at this link via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This Article introduces the concept of the law school firm.  The concept calls for law schools to establish affiliated law firms.  The affiliation would provide opportunities for students, faculty, and attorneys to collaborate and share resources to teach, research, write, serve clients, and influence the development of law and policy.  Based loosely on the medical school model, the law school firm will help bridge the gap between law schools and the practice of law.

Posted by DAB

August 18, 2011 in Legal profession realities and developments, Service -- legal profession, Serving students, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Taking it to the streets

Academic scholarship, at least in part, should be about making the world better-- that is the purpose of the analysis we provide and the reforms we propose.  Yet, scholarship often seems like an inefficient way of doing that, and too often our words never make it to an audience who has the power to make changes or utilize the tools we provide.  We are talking to ourselves.

I do believe in scholarship in the most traditional sense; it is through dialogue with others in my field that my ideas are refined.  Yet, I also feel the need to convey those ideas to others outside the academy, and it takes different techniques to do that.  I am still learning those techniques.

On Wednesday of this week, I will be lobbying the office of Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois on the death penalty abolition bill passed by the legislature and now under his consideration. I am not a lobbyists; however, I would be a fool to pass on this opportunity to speak to those who have the power to enact a reform I support.  The skill set I need is very different than what scholarship requires, of course, and I am hoping to be successful in shifting gears on the fly.

Then, later, I will be giving a sermon and re-creating the trial of Christ under Virginia death penalty rules in an Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia (details here).   The point is to go to the heart of a death-penalty point and put in juxtaposition the Christianized political culture there and the unjust execution at the heart of that faith. 

All of this may be in vain, of course, and no more effective at creating change than writing another article.  Still, I believe it to be worthwhile.

Do we have a duty to take it to the streets?

-- Mark Osler

February 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

“I think [the iPad] could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector.”

The title of this post is a quote from this recent New York Times article, which is headlined "Math That Moves: Schools Embrace the iPad." Here is some of the discussion surrounding this quote:

The iPads cost $750 apiece, and they are to be used in class and at home during the school year to replace textbooks, allow students to correspond with teachers and turn in papers and homework assignments, and preserve a record of student work in digital portfolios. “It allows us to extend the classroom beyond these four walls,” said Larry Reiff, an English teacher at Roslyn who now posts all his course materials online.

Technological fads have come and gone in schools, and other experiments meant to rev up the educational experience for children raised on video games and YouTube have had mixed results. Educators, for instance, are still divided over whether initiatives to give every student a laptop have made a difference academically....

But school leaders say the iPad is not just a cool new toy but rather a powerful and versatile tool with a multitude of applications, including thousands with educational uses....

Educators also laud the iPad’s physical attributes, including its large touch screen (about 9.7 inches) and flat design, which allows students to maintain eye contact with their teachers. And students like its light weight, which offers a relief from the heavy books that weigh down their backpacks.

Roslyn administrators also said their adoption of the iPad, for which the district paid $56,250 for the initial 75 (32-gigabyte, with case and stylus), was advancing its effort to go paperless and cut spending. In Millburn, N.J., students at South Mountain Elementary School have used two iPads purchased by the parent-teacher organization to play math games, study world maps and read “Winnie the Pooh.” Scott Wolfe, the principal, said he hoped to secure 20 more iPads next school year to run apps that, for instance, simulate a piano keyboard on the screen or display constellations based on a viewer’s location. “I think this could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector,” Mr. Wolfe said.

The New York City public schools have ordered more than 2,000 iPads, for $1.3 million; 300 went to Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx, or enough for all 23 teachers and half of the students to use at the same time.

More than 200 Chicago public schools applied for 23 district-financed iPad grants totaling $450,000. The Virginia Department of Education is overseeing a $150,000 iPad initiative that has replaced history and Advanced Placement biology textbooks at 11 schools. And six middle schools in four California cities (San Francisco, Long Beach, Fresno and Riverside) are teaching the first iPad-only algebra course, developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Even kindergartners are getting their hands on iPads. Pinnacle Peak School in Scottsdale, Ariz., converted an empty classroom into a lab with 36 iPads — named the iMaginarium — that has become the centerpiece of the school because, as the principal put it, “of all the devices out there, the iPad has the most star power with kids.”

In this blog space a mere 10 months ago, before anyone even got a chance to get their hands on the iPad, I opined here on "How an iPad (or an even better e-tablet) could transform legal education." I continue to be intrigued (but not surprised) that law schools and legal publishers are already behind the curve on this tech front, but this story confirms my sense that the law students of the future will not merely expect an digital-friendly educational environment, they will demand it. As I put the matter in my prior post, "the iPad may not prove to be the casebook tipping-point technology, but it seems to me to be only a question of when, not whether, the traditional casebook will go the way of vinyl records and VCR tapes."

Some recent related iPad posts:


Posted by DAB

January 11, 2011 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Defending my students

Teaching forms a bond between teacher and student that can be a lifetime relationship.  This was true of some of my professors such as Dan Freed, and it made his impact on my life profound and important.

Now that I am on the other side, as a professor, I am getting a sense of that relationship from that angle.  I'm loyal to my former students, and passionate about their work and vocation.  More than anything, I am proud of what they are doing. 

I am also finding something I didn't expect-- that I am fiercely protective of them at times.  Last week, some of my favorite students, outstanding lawyers, were fired by Craig Watkins, the D.A. in Dallas.  Mr. Watkins is someone I have greatly respected on many levels, so I was sorely disappointed to learn that the firings were part of a purge of his office directed at those with Republican ties.  This wasn't the case of a new D.A. cleaning house-- Watkins had just been re-elected to a second term, and those fired were career prosecutors. 

The best I could do about things was to write; that's what we professors do.  You can read my op-ed from today's Dallas Morning News here.  (I'm not sure what to make of their teaser's reference to my conclusion as a "head shot," though).

To the life of the student and professor, there are few relationships so important.  I'm surprised that we reflect on the nature of that relationship so rarely.

-- Mark Osler

January 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Supreme Court Justices are now doing work on iPads and Kindles, when will law students?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new video from a portion of a C-SPAN interview with new Justice Elena Kagan. The video is titled "Justice Kagan on Using a Kindle to Read Briefs," and in the segment Justice Kagan reports on how she uses the Kindle to read all the SCOTUS briefs, and also discusses that Justice Scalia has his briefs on an iPad. (Hat tip: How Appealing.)

In a series of prior posts about technology and legal education, I have suggested that the advancement of new reading technologies will at some point transform legal education. I articulated the point this way in this post after first seeing the iPad in action earlier this year:

[A] casebook-friendly e-tablet is only the tip of the new media iceberg that could be facilitated by an iPad or some other tablet that becomes to casebooks what the iPod became to vinyl records.  Of course, just as record companies (and some artists) resisted music being packaged and distributed via new media, casebook publishers (and some authors) may resist legal materials being packaged distributed via new media.  But, as the iPod and the DVR and other digital innovations have demonstrated, a better means to distribute content digitally will eventually prevail over analog precursors.  The iPad may not prove to be the casebook tipping-point technology, but it seems to me to be only a question of when, not whether, the traditional casebook will go the way of vinyl records and VCR tapes.

When traveling to speak at various conferences, I have noticed more and more lawyers with iPads and other e-readers. I expect that buzz about the Justices reading briefs on e-readers might add even more juice to the on-going digital revolution in the collection and distribution of legal materials.  And if law schools do not get with the program soon, I fear we will be doing even worse than usual in training the next generation of lawyers.

Posted by DAB

December 13, 2010 in Electronic Education, Legal profession realities and developments, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Negotiation as the Connective Skill

As many schools consider further developing the skills component of their programs, I'd like to make a pitch for putting a thorough, required negotiation class at the center of that development.

First, the balance between negotiation and trial practice training at many schools is all out of proportion to what the real world requires.  My own field of criminal law is the most trial-intensive of practice areas, yet even there 95% of cases plead out.  That means that negotiation is the most important skill in 19 out of 20 cases.  Litigators certainly must know how to litigate-- but they must know how to negotiate, too.

Second, and relatedly, negotiation is a skill crucial to all practice areas.  It is essential to work in big firms and solo practice, legal aid and family law.  It is, along with legal writing, the skill that is perhaps most commonly needed across the lines of legal practice.

Third, negotiation is a learned skill.  A few simple techniques can transform a practice.  For example, social science tells us that making a first offer confers huge advantages.  Yet, it is traditional in criminal law for the government to always make the first offer.  A defense attorney who upsets this convention at well-chosen times may get disproportionate benefits for her client.

Fourth, the ethical issues that arise in negotiation require more intense study than we typically give them in PR class.  Again, looking at my own field, the ethical requirement that all plea offers be made clear to the defendant is embedded in the negotiation process, and to fully understand those principles the process must be revealed.

Finally, negotiation offers great opportunities for inter-disciplinary collaboration.  The social sciences (including business administration) are far ahead of us in using science to analyze techniques and outcome in negotiation, and we need to lean on and borrow from them.

-- Mark Osler

December 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Would Law School Warning Labels Help?"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting new piece from The National Law Journal, which gets started this way:

People smoke.  People speed.  They don't exercise or get enough sleep.  They go to law school. By now, everyone is aware of the consequences of these actions.  In fact, they have known them for some time.  The question is: who is responsible?

Placing blame is, after all, a central component of the law.  In the case of what ails legal education, however, it is not very easy to assign.

I had the privilege of speaking with a variety of industry thought leaders on this topic for a research study on The Evolution of the Legal Profession (pdf) (sponsored by DiscoverReady).  They identified two reasons that individuals assume the debt to go to law school without a full awareness of the potential outcomes.

First, most prospective law students sincerely believe they will graduate in the top 10 percent of the class.  "You sign the loan papers with the idea that it will all pay off and it is the idealized big firm life that allows people to take debt," notes Indiana University Maurer School of Law Professor William Henderson.  He recommends that the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar direct schools to walk students through the application process more carefully to conduct an intelligent analysis of their career prospects.

Second, law school applicants are generally naive consumers of debt.  "As soon as tuition rose to a level where people had to borrow significant sums in order to go to law school, you had students with no experience taking out loans, repaying them or understanding what it means to have debt," says University of Miami School of Law Dean, Patricia White. "It was a little bit like the foreclosure crisis and the mortgage debacle," she adds.

These seem like plausible explanations given the decreasing level of zeal amongst budding barristers, evidenced by the recent examples of individuals trying to sell or return their law degrees, and the increasing number of applicants.

To address this disparity, last fall, in her first year as dean, White sent accepted applicants who had already paid their full non-refundable deposit a unique letter that generated national attention.  In it, she asked, them to reconsider their choice of attending law school.  The dean offered them the option to defer their admission for one year to further reflect on their chosen path.  Of the 32 students who accepted her offer, only eight enrolled this year.

November 6, 2010 in Deans and innovations, Legal profession realities and developments, Serving students | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Official law school resources or unofficial law student help: is there an app for that?

I know that there are a fair number of interesting "apps" for a fair number of legal resources.  (Many of these apps can be located via The Law Pod, which "specializes in legal reference software for smartphones and web devices.")  In addition, via the terrific blog iPhone J.D., I have seen reviews of various traditional law-school commercial services turned into apps (such as BARBRI and Law in a Flash).

But I have yet to see any law school develop its own official app for its students (and prospective students), nor have I seen any truly creative apps developed by entrepunrial lawyers or law students for the law student marketplace.  Just as all law schools (and many law students) now have intricate (and sophisticated?) websites on which law school resources and promotional materials often reside, I suspect it may be only a matter of time before apps become a more common part of law school life. 

I wonder if any law school is thinking about trying to raise its profile through the development of an app for its students or as a distinctive means to promote its faculty and programs.  Gosh knows that the development of a clever law-school app seems like it would be a much better use of promotional resources than producing and distributing all the hard-copy law porn I find in my faculty mailbox (which gets quickly relocated to my faculty trash can, often within a matter of seconds).

Posted by DAB

October 25, 2010 in Electronic Education, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Great Prawfs discussion of "Revamping the 1L Curriculum"

Over at PrawfsBlawg,  Lyrissa Lidsky has this interesting post on 1L curriculum reform that gets started this way:

How do law schools justify their curricula in a world where tuition keeps rising and employment rates for grads keep falling?

In response to this question, and at the nudging of our curriculum committee, several of my colleagues today began discussing what should be done to revamp the 1L curriculum. It was amazing to hear how much consensus there is about what skills too many students lack after the 1L year. They can't (or don't) read cases closely enough; they can't (or don't) read statutes closely enough; their writing skills are underdeveloped; their analytical skills are weak; they lack initiative and self-reliance.

There was far less consensus on how to solve the problem. Proposals included having a separate class to teach legal reasoning skills, adding skills components to traditional 1L classes, making sure 1L students have a small section experience, beefing up legal research and writing requirements, requiring 1L profs to use essay exams, banning laptops in class, and adding components to 1L classes designed to boost "emotional intelligence" or professionalism.

The post prompted a host of really terrific comments, including a complaint and a retort from a current law student and a current lawyer (which are only quoted in part below and merit a full read):

Student Complaint: I am not a professor so I (maybe) cannot offer the best method for revamping the 1L (or even subsequent) curriculum. I do know, however, that the current method is not working. Law school is too much of a game, too much of hide the ball, and too much of "you gotta do what I say because I control the gate".

I have raised my concerns and thoughts to many professors and suprisingly they all agree for the most part. I have to wonder, if they all agree with what a lowly law student thinks, why isnt someone doing something about it? I feel that I have been under-prepared by law school and am just biding my time until the bar exam.

Lawyer Retort: I have to disagree with Mr. Billy who is frustrated by the law school hide-the-ball approach. And no, I am not a professor -- I'm a practicing lawyer.

I often here about how law school "hides the ball." This is often portrayed negatively. The people who who feel this way don't get why the American legal education system is so much better than most others.

Here's the simple truth: The practice of law is all about finding a hidden ball. All the time.

There is no such thing as a case on point. There is no such thing as a simple argument. Each time you are thrown into a new case or legal matter you come in with no context, no grounding, and you have to learn to swim over again.

October 16, 2010 in Teaching -- curriculum, Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Protests and dialogue

Today at St. Thomas, we are having a great forum on presidential powers featuring a number of great speakers which include not only St. Thomas's Michael Paulsen and Robert Delahunty, but Akhil Amar from Yale Law and John Yoo from Berkeley.

Because Profs. Yoo and Delahunty worked in the Bush administration and wrote some of the controversial memos on presidential power, there are protesters doing their thing outside my window. Their point, as far as I can gather, is that the two professors were wrong and even criminal in their actions within the Bush administration, and should not be allowed to speak.

I agree with their right to protest. I do not agree with their point, though.

One of the reasons we have an academy is to allow divergent views to be heard. If people disagree about important issues, we debate them in classrooms and stages, rather than in the streets. It's an amazing and wonderful process, a way of getting to truth. Within this process, it is most important that we hear from those we disagree with the most, and that the most sensitive issues be raised.

There is something just sad about such protesters who clearly want to silence someone. I went out to talk to some of the protesters last month, actually. One of their frustrations is that they are not allowed on the stage with people like Yoo and Delahunty.

Of course they aren't allowed on that stage! I'm not on that stage, either, because I am not an expert on presidential powers. In fact, for those who oppose Yoo and Delahunty, there WILL be someone on that stage who is a wonderful expert and ideological opposite to Profs. Yoo and Delahunty-- Akhil Amar.

I'm kind of an iconoclast, and I understand the urge to shout. However, the love of ideas leads me favor my urge to listen and discern. Shouting at an exchange like this one comes off not as a protest at one side's ideas, but at the process itself (which, in fact is what will literally be protested and yelled at). I love this process, and I hate to see it debased by those who prefer to hear neither Yoo nor Amar, nor, in time, me and those with whom I disagree.

There are things to rage at. Civil discussion is not one of them.

-- Mark Osler


October 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A new view of scholarly impact

Some of my colleagues here at St. Thomas, led by Greg Sisk, have come up with an intriguing new measurement of scholarly impact.  Actually, the method itself-- counting citations in law review articles-- was pioneered by Brian Leiter at the University of Chicago, who has done this to rank-order the top 25 law schools.  Greg and the others used Brian's methodology to expand the list to 70 schools.  In short, what they did was count the law review citations to work by tenured faculty at a school, then divide by the number of tenured faculty to get an average citation count per faculty member.

There is no perfect measure of something like scholarly impact, and I agree with many others that the focus by law schools on rankings has had a negative impact on legal education.  However, if the rankings are with us, those of us who vote should have as many objective measures as possible to rely on, and citation counts are a pretty good objective measure of how much the work of a faculty is being noticed by peers. 

It would be interesting to see a similar listing of how often courts-- both state and federal-- cite to the work of the faculties at different schools.  This would give an advantage to scholarship that is practical and focused on legal issues that matter to courts.  Again, such an objective measure would not be perfect... but it still would be a better basis for evaluation than the guestimates or gamesmanship that seem to dictate the votes on too many survey forms.

-- Mark Osler



September 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Gender, Jail, and Social Work

While chatting with a social worker recently, we made what has become a familiar observation:  That social workers and prosecutors really are addressing the same societal problems (substance abuse, for example), simply by different means. 

For the first time, though, a new and perhaps more important thought entered into that conversation.  Not only are criminal lawyers and social workers addressing the same problems in the same populations, but really within the same families.  She told me that in both urban and rural work that she had done, there was consistently a pattern where the men went to prison, and the social workers dealt with the women and children who are left in poverty and chaos. 

Moreover, it is a highly gendered dichotomy.  Those who go to prison and those who prosecute and defend them are overwhelmingly male, while those left behind and the social workers who help them are overwhelmingly female.  It is a sharp gender division on both sides.

Perhaps the oddest thing about all of this is that social workers and those in criminal law rarely communicate with each other, though they are addressing the same problems.  The men in criminal work stay in the courthouse, and the women in social work stay away from the courthouse and focus on the home. 

Perhaps it is time to address that gap?

-- Mark Osler

August 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Monterey College of Law -- First Law School in US to go iPad"

The title of this post is the headline of this new press release, are here are excerpts:

Monterey College of Law, a California accredited law school located in Seaside, California is the first law school in the US to adopt the iPad as an integral part of the law school curriculum. Law students at Monterey College of Law returned from summer break to the exciting news that they are part of a unique pilot program that will provide iPads to each law student at the school. Through an innovative program developed by the law school with BAR BRI, the country’s largest bar exam review company, each MCL law student receives an iPad when they enroll in the BAR BRI supplemental curriculum program that the students use while attending school and in preparation for the California Bar Exam.

“Law schools are rarely found close to the leading edge of technology,” said Mitchel Winick, President and Dean of the law school. “However, it is clear to me that combining this technology with interactive, portable, timely content and harnessing the energy of on-line social networking provides a number of immediate educational opportunities.” This is particularly true for an evening law school like MCL that has a traditional classroom-based legal education program in which many students are balancing a full work and family schedule while attending law school....

Chris Marohn, a third-year MCL law student who is the immediate-past President of the Student Bar Association noted that “excited Facebook posts about the iPad program were circulating through the rest of the student body before the Dean finished announcing the new program to the first-year class. There was a lot of excitement among my classmates, particularly once Dean Winick started handing out iPads," said Marohn. Winick noted that 100% of the entering first-year students and approximately 70% of the upper level students enrolled in the new program by the end of the first week of law school. He expects that most of the remaining students will enroll over the next few weeks as students begin experimenting with new ways to study using the iPads. It is only a matter of time before virtual study groups are formed to support each of the core law school classes....

The second step of the program is to provide access to iPads for MCL law faculty members who are interested in integrating the iPad into their regular course materials and classroom presentations. “Historically, law faculty members are known to be very traditional in their approach to teaching. In some law schools, classes have been taught the same way, with very few changes, for more than 100 years” said Winick. “The objective of the MCL faculty pilot program will be to develop examples of using iPad technology to enhance and expand traditional legal education without diminishing any of the core academic values,” said Stephen Wagner, law professor and President of the faculty senate. The law school will pilot-test the faculty program during the current academic year and anticipates expanding the program to include all interested faculty members next year.

I figured it would only be a matter of time before the iPad and/or other like tablets became a regular part of the law school experience.  But I am still pleased and impressed that this innovation has taken hold so quickly in at least one law school setting.  Will others follow?

Some recent related iPad posts:

Posted by DAB

August 25, 2010 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Should innovators be pleased or worried that grades may matter more than prestige?

The question in the title of this post is inspired bythis report via the ABA Journal, which is headlined "Law School Grades More Important to Career than Elite School, Researchers Say."  Here are the basics:

Law school grades are the important predictor of a lawyer’s career success—in fact they are “decisively more important” than the eliteness of the school attended, according to two law professors who have studied the issue.

University of California, Los Angeles law professor Richard Sander and Brooklyn Law School visiting professor Jane Yakowitz analyzed data from four studies and concluded that the standard advice—go to the best law school that will take you—doesn’t necessarily hold true, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports.

“Since the dominant conventional wisdom says that law school prestige is all‐important, and since students who ‘trade‐up’ in school prestige generally take a hit to their school performance, we think prospective students are getting the wrong message,” they write in a new paper (PDF posted by Law Blog).

Sander told the Wall Street Journal he doesn’t know why grades are so important, but he was willing to speculate. “It could have to do with psychological factors, a level of confidence you gain from doing well that serves you well not only in school but afterward,” he said.

Sander and Yakowitz studied data from more than 40 public law schools across the country, and found that applicants tend to go to the most elite law school that will have them. But is that a good idea? Not according to data collected in the American Bar Foundation’s After the JD study of lawyers who entered the bar in 2000, they write. It indicates that the salary boost for achieving high grades more than makes up for the salary depreciation associated with attending a lower‐ranked school. The study also found that lawyers who left law school with the lowest grades felt the least secure about their jobs.

Two other studies of lawyers practicing in Chicago in the mid-1970s and mid-1990s found that law school eliteness was associated with higher incomes in the 1970s, but that had changed in the 1990s, when class rank more accurately predicted earning power.

Two other findings: In two of the studies, Catholics, Protestants, and Jews all appear to have a salary edge over nonbelievers and the unaffiliated, creating “an interesting issue for further exploration,” according to Sander and Yakowitz. And while law students tend to come from upper-middle and upper class backgrounds, social status now appears to not have a role in shaping grads' careers.

Posted by DAB

August 6, 2010 in Admissions to law school, Legal profession realities and developments | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 2, 2010

"The New Realities of the Legal Academy"

The title of this post is the title of this intriguing new paper by Larry Solum available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This short paper is the Foreword to Brannon P. Denning, Marcia L. McCormick, and Jeffrey M. Lipshaw, Becoming a Law Professor: A Candidate's Guide, American Bar Association, Forthcoming.

One of the great virtues of Denning, McCormick and Lipshaw’s guide is that it reflects the changing nature and new realities of the legal academy.  Not so many years ago, entry into the elite legal academy was mostly a function of two things -- credentials and connections. The ideal candidate graduated near the top of the class at a top-five law school, held an important editorial position on law review, clerked for a Supreme Court Justice, and practiced for a few years at an elite firm or government agency in New York or Washington.  Credentials like these almost guaranteed a job at a very respectable law school, but the very best jobs went to those with connections -- the few who were held in high esteem by the elite network of very successful legal academics and their friends in the bar and on the bench. The not-so-elite legal academy operated by a similar set of rules.  Regional law schools were populated by a mix of graduates from elite schools and the top graduates of local schools, clerks of respected local judges, and alumni of elite law firms in the neighborhood.  In what we now call the "bad old days," it was very difficult indeed for someone to become a law professor without glowing credentials and the right connections.

But times have changed.  When the Association of American Law Schools created the annual Faculty Recruitment Conference (or FRC) and the associated Faculty Appointments Register (or FAR), the landscape of the legal academy was forever changed.  The change was slow in coming.  For many years, candidates were selected for interviews at the FRC on the basis of the same old credentials and connections, but at some point (many would say the early 1980s), the rules of the game began to change.  In baseball, a similar change is associated with Billy Beane, the manager of the Oakland Athletics, who defied conventional wisdom and built winning teams despite severe financial constraints by relying on statistically reliable predictors of success.  The corresponding insight in the legal academy (developed by hiring committees at several law schools) was that the best predictor of success as a legal scholar was a record of publication.  It turns out that law school grades, law review offices, and clerkships are at best very rough indicators of scholarly success.  But those who successfully publish high quality legal scholarship are likely to continue to do so.

This foreword explores the implications of the new realities of the legal academy for candidates seeking to become law professors.

Posted by DAB

August 2, 2010 in The mission of law schools, The tenure process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The most important thing

About 80% of my upper-level criminal students want to become prosecutors.  For those students, I know exactly what the most important thing I have to tell them is:  That they should be certain that their cases make something better, improve society or solve a problem, rather than just being "wins" because someone goes to prison.

Yet, I often fail to emphasize or even get around to this most important thing.  It is a terrible failure.  I get tied up in trying to describe the hopelessly complex sentencing guidelines or the state scheme or the death penalty and somehow... the class ends and I never stood up for what was most important.

No more, though.  I know this maxim isn't testable, and am well aware that it cannot take up much class time if I am to teach doctrine, but no longer will I fail to describe what is most important because the thick dross of rules has so obscured my vision.

--Mark Osler

July 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How could (and should) field trips become a regular part of law school experiences?

Over at The Faculty Lounge, Matt Lister has a great post titled "Field Trips for Law School Classes." In addition to discussing his field trip plans to take his students to the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Matt touched off a great comment dialogue by asking to "hear what people think of the idea, and if anyone else has incorporated field-trips into their teaching, and if so, how well they worked."

I have long thought that law school instruction could benefit from more field-trips, and I am often disappointed that my own inertia combines with structural/logistical challenges to prevent me from taking many of my classes on multiple trips. Especially for my bigger classes, I worry (perhaps too much) that many students will not be able to fit a multi-hour trip into their schedules and/or that those who cannot attend will feel unfairly disadvantaged by missing the trip. In addition, trips are rarely cost- or complication-free even if planned locally and only for a small group.

With these realities in mind, Matt's post got me to wondering if law students and/or faculty would possibly get behind the idea of working the field-trip concept into law school norms -- e.g., by having a few days each semesters specially "reserved" for trips and the allocation of some special funds to support the trips. Alternatively (or perhaps in addition), law schools might try to schedule mega-trips for the whole student-body, such as a local courthouse trip during orientation week for 1Ls or a law firm trip before on-campus interviews during 2L week.

Do readers think this is crazy talk, or might there be an innovative idea worth developing here?

Posted by DAB

July 15, 2010 in Serving students, Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Leaving School and The Last Lecture

This summer is my last quarter teaching at Baylor.  In the Fall, I will take up the same position (Prof. of Law) at St. Thomas in Minnesota.

When I announced my departure from Baylor, my students gracefully invited me to give a "last lecture."  The topic was of my choosing, and I chose to speak about my most humbling epiphanies as a teacher (I had many to choose from!).  You can see the video here.

In the last lecture, I did use a bit of innovation.  I am not good at good-byes, so I found a unique way to escape.  If you don't want to see the whole video, you can read a shorter description here.

-- Mark Osler

June 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 7, 2010

"[M]ost law reviews are simply a waste of trees"

The title of this post (which is cross-posted at SL&P) comes from the last phrase of this amusing and effective commentary by Professor Gerald Uelmen in the June 2010 issue of the California Lawyer.  (Hat tip: C&C.) The piece is titled "The Wit, Wisdom, and Worthlessness of Law Reviews," and here are a few snippets:

During California's legal "golden era" of the Gibson and Traynor Courts in the 1950s and '60s, law reviews were cited with increasing frequency. In a classic study of the authorities cited in California Supreme Court opinions, Stanford law professor John H. Merryman counted 164 law review citations in the court's 1970 opinions, a "sharp increase" over previous years (Merryman, "Toward a Theory of Citations," 50 S. CAL. L. REV. 381 (1977)).

I did my own count recently of the California Supreme Court opinions published during the past five years that relied on law reviews as authority: There were just six.  This despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that law reviews have tripled in number since the 1970s.  The 20 ABA-accredited law schools in California now publish a total of 82 law reviews. UC Berkeley's alone publishes 14, while Stanford and UC Hastings each publish 9.  Both law professors seeking tenure and law students seeking employment at elite law firms eagerly fill these volumes.  But who reads them now? Surely not the judges who decide the law. And not practicing lawyers either.

As Adam Liptak of the New York Times observed a few years ago, "Articles in law reviews have certainly become more obscure in recent decades.  Many law professors seem to think they are under no obligation to say anything useful or to say anything well.  They take pride in the theoretical and in working in disciplines other than their own.  They seem to think the analysis of actual statutes and court decisions — which is to say the practice of law — is beneath them."...

Of course, there are still a few law professors who would rather publish for practicing lawyers and judges than just for other professors. But given the way the academic game is played these days, they do so at their peril — particularly if they are seeking tenure. Still, law reviews are in no danger of disappearing anytime soon.  After all, big law firms and elitist judges continue to demand "law review experience" as a prerequisite for hiring.  The publication of student notes also provides a vehicle to enhance badly needed writing skills for barely literate law students.  But in terms of contributing to the profession, most law reviews are simply a waste of trees.

To put a little sentencing spin on this effective attack on modern law reviews, I wonder how many of the "20 ABA-accredited law schools in California [that] now publish a total of 82 law reviews" have produced articles discussing the dysfunctionality of California's state sentencing system or the profound legal issues that surround its long-lasting prison over-crowding problems.  I know of a few strong "local" pieces on California's three strikes law and other local topics, but not as many as are justified or needed for the legislators, courts and practitioners struggling daily with these issues.

As readers of this blog know, there are an array of interesting and important (and theoretically sophisticated and challenging) issues surrounding California's sentencing law and policy that merit extended and repeated coverage in law reviews.  And I am proud to note that one of the law reviews that I edit, the Federal Sentencing Reporter, has this new issue on "California's Corrections Crisis."  I am thus glad that Professor Uelmen says only that "most" not "all" law reviews are a waste of trees.  (And, of course, no trees were killed or even hurt in the production of this blog post.)

Posted by DAB

June 7, 2010 in Scholarship -- traditional | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Does anyone have any experience with the BlogWorld conference?

BlogWorldLogo20%E2%80%A6E_RGB_250px I just got an e-mail inviting me to take advantage of early bird registration for the 2010 BlogWorld & New Media Expo and Conference taking place this October in Las Vegas.  Since I am always eager to have an excuse to go to Vegas and since I am also eager to figure out a way to take my law blogging to another level (whatever that means), I am thinking seriously about trying to make it to this event.

I am a bit concerned, however, that this BlogWorld event may be more geared to techies and others more interested in marketing than in content creation and dissemination.  Consequently, I am posting here (and in some other blog locales) this bleg for information and feedback on the BlogWorld experience.  Relatedly, I filled out a form to offer to be a speaker at the BlogWorld event (which would make registration free and likely could have other benefits), and I would love to hear from anyone as to whether trying to speak at this event sounds like a sensible idea.

Posted by DAB

June 3, 2010 in Blogging by lawyers and law professors, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)