September 27, 2008
Liveblogging the Future of the Law School Casebook workshop part 1
I'm here at Seattle University School of Law with many esteemed law professors, publishers, and technology companies to discuss: where is the law school casebook headed in the near future?
Dean Kellye Testy is moderating our first conversation, "Glimpses of the Future: the possible, the probable, and the potential of innovative reform." This is an open discussion -- details after the break.
- David Scover describes himself "weaning away" from the Socratic method -- something that may have been rooted in a certain reliance on control.
- David Vladeck, as someone steeped in practice, emphasizes problem-based learning -- which existing case-oriented materials don't support.
- Ron Collins notes that a common theme that's emerged from the pre-workshop memos is "collaborative" -- that while Langdell implied a top-down, individualistic method, the big question moving forward is how to network people together.
- Kraig Baker, also as a practitioner, describes his own passion for law and how casebooks tend to quench that passion -- instead we need to find out how to feed that passion.
- Ed Rubin notes that new / emerging courses require new materials; otherwise, teachers won't adopt the courses. Furthermore, pedagogically we no longer understand skills as separate from doctrine, but rather the way we come to understand doctrine -- implying an interactive format.
- Dennis Patterson describes the innovation of the "intervention" -- breaking into cases to ask students about the opinion as it unfolds. But West's system could not handle publishing this electronically. For a problem in commercial transactions, he wants to see video & schematics describing an actual industry / transaction in context -- and most importantly, be able to deploy imagination to apply doctrine.
- Michael Schwartz cites Prof. Oates' research that most successful students learn from cases with a problem in mind -- and therefore, what real data should we keep in mind, moving forward.
- Paula Lustbader wants students to think about why are you thinking this -- what did you do to figure it out, so you can replicate it. We need a combination of text and real-life experiences, even interview real clients -- not for every case, but thoughtfully about how stories can make learning more rich. Materials should model the expert protocol and WHY is the lawyer asking this question, what's the approach to problem-solving. As for imagination: there's a need for students to PLAY with the materials, not putting them into boxes.
- John Mayer discusses how so much technology is available, but points out that the problem has been professors creating one-offs rather than collaborating, and furthermore, why not consider students as collaborators too, to help create a/v resources.
- John Palfrey -- reconceptualizing materials as born digital to begin with, and reprovision them for different needs, rather than putting things into Langdellian buckets. And students, too, are born digital and therefore thinking differently -- sometimes a strength, sometimes a weakness.
- Conrad Johnson -- what's often missing is the context, law from the ground up -- you can ask your students what they want to know, so you can catch the kinds of things that we overlook in the Socratic method.
- Bill Harmon -- students are already very proficient at getting information, and the next big step is to enable them to collaborate. Law is about people: what do these people need as a remedy?
- Me -- what kinds of training will professors need to be able to teach in new ways?
- Steve Friedland -- we need to reframe from how are we teaching vs. how are they learning? "We need to get rebooted." What is our purpose: we are teaching them to be law students, and then we ask them to be lawyers.
- John Mitchell -- shift the figure ground so the cases, the statutes -- that's the library -- the clients/case/context is how we're teaching. That we can do without technology ("I have a handpuppet"). See, as lawyers do, that cases are the library -- going to a client-centric context.
- Ed Rubin explains what transactional work is, and laments how students never even see contracts. And how transactional work is non-zero-sum -- a different attitudinal approach than dispute-centered legal problems.
- Kellye Testy points out how drafting made a huge difference in understanding contracts in a class she taught: changes can be small, and it can go to learning what they should not adding more.
- Paula Lustbader -- so much we should be learning from undergrad, even kindergarten level. Describing a game to learn history in which students were so motivated -- "What would be our World War II simulation?"
- Peggy Davis -- learn law by using it, especially through simulation. Working collaboratively to solve problems is how we learn -- "structure a field of play." Is this happening in practice?
- Keith Stipe (Carolina Academic Press) -- where do we fit in?
- David Vladeck agrees that lawyers do practice collaboratively, cutting across firm boundaries -- students need to learn that lawyers need to collaborate with "the other side." "I want to grade them on their ability to collaborate with their peers." Silo-based learning is not conducive to learning how to practice, which cuts across these lines.
- Kraig -- making mistakes became OK, students making corrections points out that they're learning together.
- David Skover -- "Publishers have been leading us down the path for a long time, and only the fringe have moved away." Maybe it's time to prioritize the materials first. Publishers need to hear us -- this session is more for them. Also: as we innovate, are we going to lose the teaching of logical thinking that we excel at?
- Marilyn Berger underlines the importance of lesson plans / teaching goals so that new methods are not gimmicks. Also describes her collaboration with Aspen to create a textbook and website exactly as the professors imagined it -- addressing identified student needs. What about tenure -- why does it take 8 years before professors can be innovative?
June 11, 2008
ABA's Outcome Measures and Tenure Proposals
The ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has released two special committee reports that could be influential in reforming legal education in the US, namely, Interim Report of the Outcome Measures Committee and Report of the Special Committee on Security of Position. Details on Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki
March 05, 2008
Another New Legal Education Reform Blog
Hosted by the Elon University Law School, the Center for Engaged Learning in the Law Blog "is intended to contribute to the discourse on teaching and learning in law, from the inspirational to the whimsical, to the mechanical. It includes the varying perspectives of teachers, administrators, learners and practicioners." See our earlier Law Librarian Blog posts covering this growing body of resourses:
-- Joe Hodnicki
January 09, 2008
New Destinations in the Blogosphere's Legal Education Reform Space
The Best Practices for Legal Education Blog has joined Law School Innovation in the blogosphere's U.S. legal education reform space. See also the UK's Transforming Initiative. The Best Practices and Transforming Initiative web destinations are extensions of recent legal education reform publications. Details at Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki
January 07, 2008
The Complete Lawyer on Law School Reform
The Complete Lawyer has published a series of articles on law school reform. Details and links on Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki
January 05, 2008
Raw outline of "Rethinking Legal Education For The 21st Century"
Below are the "raw" notes I took in the AALS Friday afternoon plenary session, "Rethinking Legal Education for the 21st Century" featuring Edward L. Rubin (Vanderbilt University Law School), Vicki C. Jackson (Georgetown University Law Center), Robert Mac Crate, Esq. (Senior Counsel, Sullivan and Cromwell), Martha L. Minow (Harvard Law School), Suellyn Scarnecchia (University of New Mexico School of Law), William M. Sullivan (Senior Scholar The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), Judith W. Wegner (University of North Carolina School of Law).
[The panel began with Bill Sullivan outlining the Carnegie Foundation's Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law.]
Bill Sullivan (Carnegie Foundation)
Prof ed's common goal as it moved into university: a threefold apprenticeship:
- competence for practice
- Identity + prof. purpose
AALS will be collecting best practices at
Ed Rubin (Vanderbilt)
Law schools teach all three years at same level of sophistication. Vanderbilt now offers areas concentration, incrementing analytical sophistication, guided by faculty
Vicki Jackson (Georgetown)
Globalization - an opportunity to rethink our fields
Expanding learning experiences.How we teach is what we teach -- Problem-solving, reflective
- Social science about learning
- Critiques about legal education
- [Illegible -- help?]
Law + Legal systems to Justice / Fairness. "Week 1" (of 2nd semester)
- Intro to realistic, complex multiunit problem
- Problem-based experiential setting
- Assigned + act out roles
- Collaboratively w/ role group
- Builds on 1st-year content
ABA 25 years ago urged reassessment together
Martha Minow (Harvard)
Once it became clear that we were serious, there was little disagreement (but enormous resistance). There were two contradictory objections to each idea:
- "We've tried that before."
- "We've never tried that before."
Autonomy of prof. in the classroom leads to need to learn to play well together
- "What do students need now?" not "How did I learn law.” Student as a person on a map
- Some of mastery, not labeled w/ doctrine. Rather, problem-solving, strategy
- Ethics + Role: taking agency
- Institutional design change: choice
How change happened at Harvard:
- Leadership: Dean on committee, attend every one
- Process, not report
- Ambition: pursue something faculty is afraid of: results not guaranteed
Exceed existing constraints
- Look outside: medical, business, policy
- More process: agreement before the vote
- It's not over: ongoing, not episodic
Suellen Scarnecchia (University of New Mexico School of Law)
Clinical faculty at NM are tenured [applause]
Do we have the right faculty? Yes: we can integrate the 3 apprenticeships with current personnel. But what stops us?
- History: clinical and legal writing faculty fought to get in
- Bias about each other (mutual between faculty and clinical)
A reason to change (Purpose)
- We're smart
- Self actualization (letting the energy out)
- Conscience + stewardship: build a better society
Multiple dimensions of teaching
- Beyond intellectual knowledge: new epistemology. We construct knowledge in context.
- Beyond content
It's About learning
- Students learn better that way
- - Values / motivation
- - Experiential:learn by doing
- Advising: career choices, values, courses
It's About Learning
- Take assessment seriously
- Bifurcate bar exam: 1st year analytics
What are the challenges in next 20-30 years
- Suellen: tuition,outcomes assessment
- Judith: faculty retirement (replenishing); new generation of learners
- Martha: technology - a new environment w/ new students -- what happens outside classroom?
- MacCrate: practice charge
Talk about Social Justice + Ethics in the curriculum
- Judith: visiting classes - almost no mention of "justice" in over 200 classrooms. No sense of "profession." Fun analytics can miss "who are the people"? Try 3-unit courses on lawyers + role of law in 1st year
- Sullen: Alumni concerned about hiring 1Ls with no ethical training
- Vicki: Specialization of law leads to "I don' t know legal ethics." Need to relate among faculty and expertise
- Martha: asks her students why "law school" is not "justice school."Hidden curriculum leading into the job market, secret message of "don't talk about justice - it sounds naive." Professors lack theory of how to get to a more just world
- Bill: Dearth of real knowledge (research) into what happens in law school.Likewise little knowledge about actual practice. Think @ more kinds of research about practice
Students as subjects/ agents
- Engage students about their aspirations
- Are professional schools about high-level theory or judgment?
Casebooks as a barrier to innovation: publishers not moving quickly enough?
- Judith: Check out CALI’s eLangdell initiative [editor's note: this question was not a plant!]
December 27, 2007
Teaching Students to Think Like 1870s Lawyers
When we talk about law school "innovation," we're really talking about law school reform. And isn't it about time? Law schools have succeeded in teaching students to think like lawyers: "1870s lawyers," said Edward L. Rubin, dean of Vanderbilt University Law School, in the Chronicle of Higher Education's Leading Legal Educators Call for a Shakeup in How the Law Is Taught (sub. required).
Hat tip to TaxProf Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki
December 07, 2007
Law School Reform and the Carnegie Report
Bill Henderson raises concerns about whether Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (2007)("Carnegie Report") can be a significant catalyst for law school reform because the Carnegie Report fails to offer (1) "a careful assessment of the institutional incentives that have created and perpetuate the current system" and (2) "creative strategies for breaking down or subverting those institutional forces in a way that produces a greater good," both, in his opinion, minimum requirements for systemic reform of legal education. Read more about it at Empirical Legal Studies.
Hat tip to Julie Jones, Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki
November 16, 2007
Does U.S. News Measure What Law Students Care About?
According to Michelle Weyenberg in Law School Rankings at Math's Mercy, National Jurist (November 2007), the answer is "no." Of concern to students but missing from the USNWR rankings are such factors as
- Quality of teaching
- Practical skills training available
- Assistance offered by placement office
- Number of courses offered beyond first year
- Overall quality of facilities
These certainly are the sorts of concerns one regularly hears from law school students but I'm not sure the quality of teaching can be measure unless a standardized teacher evaluation is implemented by the ABA/AALS but the other factors can be quantified.
In a comment to Paul Caron's TaxProf Blog post about this article, Michael Livingston questions the assumption that law students are in a good position to evaluate the quality of law schools. I think the point is that law student opinion of their schools is not a factor included in USNWR. Why not include a student review component along with the peer review and bench and bar review components? [JH]
Also posted on Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki
July 26, 2007
Searching for Leaders in the Legal Academy
When I was a law firm librarian, I found a commonality of purpose that is not but should be self-evident in the legal academy. That purpose was to represent the client to the best of the firm's ability and to do whatever was necessary to achieve that result. It's priority was higher than doling out partner compensation, allocating offices, getting the best secretary, having the fastest computer or the largest computer monitor, worrying about how the person in the next office obtained colored paper clips, etc. There was a vested interest in honesty to the common cause.
In the legal academy, not necessarily so. The academic law library is usually the one place that has a continuing mandate to strive to meet the penultimate objective of law schools within its mission statement by providing resources and services to students, faculty, alum, and the general public to the best of the law library's ability. Perhaps that's why only two law school officers are identified by title in accreditation standards: the dean and the law library director. One would hope law school deans also share this vision but that is not a given. One would hope faculty members also hold fast to the commitment to the make the necessary sacrifices for this shared vision to be achieved, but that too is not a given.
So I ask you, if you know of a law school administrator or faculty member whose actions demonstrate a belief that law schools have a common purpose that transcends the pettiness of academic politics, share that with the readers of this blog by commenting to this post.
What are we looking for? Examples of rational, honest behavior that makes a difference without causing "trouble." We're looking for those people in the legal academy whose thoughts and actions are inclusively logical because they work, appropriate to the situation, and morally true to the facts. Do they (still) exist?
Why is this so important? The buzz in the literature about law education these last several months is the need for change. But can innovation come about without leaders who possess the characteristics I have identified? -- Joe Hodnicki
April 11, 2007
If money were no object....
The news of Columbia University receiving a $400 million gift has me dreaming about what sort of law school reforms I would propose if money were no object. My mind races with possible teaching, scholarship and service innovations that only a lot of money could help make happen (e.g., hiring law firm partners and associates to teach certain lawyering courses; creating massive legal databases to facilitate and foster empirical work; funding greater faculty involvement in major litigation in their fields of expertise).
Dear reader, how about dreaming along with me: what what sort of law school reforms would you propose if money were no object?
posted by DAB
April 03, 2007
USN&WR Law School Diversity Index Fundamentally Flawed
While accounting for racial and ethnic diversity, the USN&W diversity index fails to account for law students with disabilities. Isn't it about time that we recognize that diversity includes our students with special needs? I plan of developing this idea and would appreciate hearing your opinion in comments to this post or at Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki
March 30, 2007
Carnegie, et.al.: why I have hope that change can happen
I sense, hovering around many of our discussions here, a certain pessimism about law schools' ability to change and cynicism about their desire to. Mark broached the topic directly when he asked: "Given that faculties are given to replicate themselves, is there any reason to think that the Carnegie Report will make a difference where Frank [of Yale Law and the New School] failed?" Likewise, Doug more recently asked apropos to the same topic: "1. How many law professors who are not deans will read this report? 2. How many law students will embrace and encourage the report's suggestions and will they be willing to 'vote with their feet' as some law schools innovate?"
My response to these questions emerge from my perspective as a former consumer of and current adjunct to law school, which puts me in a different position than Mark and Doug. I do not know what obstacles you face in trying to lead change and turn nice ideas like the Carnegie study into solid action. I glean from your comments that there are considerable structural and institutional barriers that include cultural preferences and incentives that lean against reform. I would love to read more analysis of these challenges.
I would also love to read more about avenues for change. It heartens me that there is a community right here committed to change. Do we share a common vision of what must happen? Who else agrees? Whom must we convince?
I commend this short essay to would-be reformers: Divided No More: A movement approach to educational reform. It's directed at
...faculty [who] have realized that even if teaching is a back-of-the-bus thing for their institutions, it is a front-of-the-bus thing for them. They have realized that a passion for teaching was what animated their decision to enter the academy, and they do not want to lose the primal energy of their professional lives. They have realized that they care deeply about the lives of their students, and they do not want to abandon the young. They have realized that teaching is an enterprise in which they have a heavy investment of personal identity and meaning–and they have decided to reinvest their lives, even if they do not receive dividends from their colleges or from their colleagues."
Does this passage describe you? Is it what motivates you to participate in a blog called "Law School Innovation"?
If so, then let's talk about the world as we'd like to see it. Maybe we can't change all law schools - not yet. But I'm convinced there are many law professors who would like to see a change. Let's talk about how we can support each other to do so.
The fact that the Carnegie Foundation gave us a map for reform but no vehicle is not cause for despair. It's people, not foundations, who make change happen.