July 12, 2012
"Yale launches Ph.D. in Law to train aspiring professors"
The title of this post is the headline of this new article in The National Law Journal reporting on the (innovative?) new approach to be tried by Yale Law School to train the next generation of law professors. Here are the basic details:
Interested in becoming a law professor? Yale Law School has a program for you.
The school plans what administrators said will be the first Ph.D. in Law. The program is designed for students holding a J.D. from a U.S. law school who want to teach law. Students will spend three years learning how to produce scholarly research and writing; will take teaching classes; and will teach courses themselves.
Yale already produces a disproportionately high percentage of law professors in the United States, given its relatively small size — about 10 percent claim a J.D. from the New Haven, Conn., institution.
But legal academia has become a tougher nut to crack in recent years, said Yale Law Dean Robert Post, particularly because law schools want professors with a deeper portfolio of academic writing and research. A few years of practice experience is no longer enough to get a foot in the door at many schools, and job candidates with Ph.D.s are in demand, he said....
Law graduates with an interest in teaching often pursue Ph.D.s in areas such as philosophy, political science, history or economics, but "it's a little hard to get them back into legal scholarship," Post said. Some law schools offer postgraduation fellowships that provide time to research and write, but they don't offer much instruction in producing academic research.
Yale's program will offer training in research and writing without losing students to other academic disciplines, Post said. The law school is still ironing out the details, but students will have to write a dissertation, sit for qualifying exams, take classes on teaching and teach two courses.
Yale received funding for the program from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and alumna Meridee Moore, who founded Watershed Asset Management LLC. Students won't have to pay tuition and will receive a cost-of living stipend, Post said. The program will start accepting applications this fall and will open during fall 2013. Post said he expects to accept about five students per year, eventually working up to a total enrollment of 15.
"I think this offers a very exciting combination of law school and graduate school," Post said. "We very much hope it will fill a need."
I share Dean Post's view that this new Yale Ph.D. program wll be an "exciting combination of law school and graduate school," and I think the program will fill a gap in existing law school programming. That said, I do not think it is quite right to suggest this program will fill a "need" as suggested by Dean Post: in my view, the law school universe right now does not really need more or even more thoroughly trained Ph.D. law professors.
Though I am disinclined to assert that there are already too many law professors, I am eager to assert that there are already too many law professors who have spent relatively too much time in school and relatively too little time in legal practice.
November 29, 2011
Financial Times' Special Supplement on Innovative Law Schools 2011
The Financial Times has just published a new set of stories on law school education around the world. (I should note that the report on LLM programs misses the fabulous intimate and friendly program we have at UC Davis.)
November 13, 2011
The importance of appreciating (and teaching) iPad realities for lawyers and law students
I am at a great session (on a Sunday morning!) of the Appellate Judges Education Institute concerning modern brief writing and reading in our digital age. The biggest take-away is that the iPad has become a "game-changer" in part because already perhaps as many as half of all appellate judges nationwide are at least sometimes reading briefs on an iPad and because it seems likely that soon all judges will read most briefs on screens.
This sessions is reinforcing my belief that law schools should be looking for ways to intergrate iPads and/or other e-readers into their skills curriculum. Notably, a Ninth Circuit judge on reported that his circuit is providing all its judges with iPads, and I strongly believe it should be only a matter of time before some clever law schools (and/or law publishers) figure out the opportunities and advantages that might flow from giving groups of students pre-programmed e-readers with specialized applications and/or content.
Some related prior posts:
- Could the iPad help transform law school and even lawyering?
- An iPad in a Law School Class -- A Skeptical View
- How an iPad (or an even better e-tablet) could transform legal education
- Incorporating Technology & University Responses
- How could/should Apple (or other tech companies) partner with a law school to foster e-casebooks?
- Supreme Court Justices are now doing work on iPads and Kindles, when will law students?
- “I think [the iPad] could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector.”
Posted by DAB
October 13, 2011
"What is ‘Good Legal Writing’ and Why Does it Matter?"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper available on SSRN and authored by Professor Mark Osbeck. Here is the abstract:
Law schools face increasing pressure to improve instruction in practice-oriented skills. One of the most important of these skills is legal writing. The existing literature on legal writing contains various rules and suggestions as to how legal writers can improve their writing skills. Yet it lacks an adequate theoretical account of the fundamental nature of good legal writing. As a result, legal writers are left without a conceptual framework to ground the individual rules and suggestions.
This article attempts to fill the theoretical void in the literature by offering a systematic analysis of what it is for a legal document to be well-written. It starts by examining a foundational conceptual issue, which is what legal writers mean when they say that a legal document is well-written. It argues that legal readers judge a document to be well-written if the writing helps them make the decisions they need to make in the course of their professional duties. The article then provides an analysis of the fundamental qualities that enable legal writing to do this, concluding that there are three such qualities: clarity, conciseness, and the ability to appropriately engage the reader.
The article explains why each of these qualities is essential to good legal writing, and it examines the tools good writers use to make their writing clear, concise, and engaging. Lastly, the article examines what it is that distinguishes the very best writing in the field, arguing that great legal writing is not just writing that is especially clear, concise, and engaging, but is instead writing characterized by a separate quality, elegance, that is aesthetic in nature. The article then goes on to explore what it is that makes such writing elegant, and whether it is desirable for legal writers to strive for elegance in their own writing. The article concludes by briefly considering the pedagogical implications of the analysis discussed in the previous sections.
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 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 24, 2011
Given modern labor realities, should law schools admit fewer students? Fail more out?
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 22, 2011
IAALS launches new program called "Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers"
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
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.
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
January 07, 2009
Dungeons & Lawyers: legal simulations and the art of game-mastering
part 1: What’s a legal simulation?
If Paul Maharg has his way, American law professors may soon have as much in common with the game referees in World of Warcraft than Prof. Kingsfield from The Paper Chase. Maharg, author of Transforming Legal Education, is working with CALI to distribute and support software that enables legal educators to run legal practice simulations. SIMPLE (SIMulated Professional Legal Education) provides a framework for students to engage in transactions typical of real-life legal practice, providing the kind of contextualized knowledge and skill that the Carnegie Study and others have demanded.
I will leave to the Carnegie Foundation, Maharg’s own writing, and countless other pieces in educational psychology and the learning sciences to explain why context-rich simulation is so effective at teaching knowledge, skills, and values. Let’s assume that, as an instructor, you’re ready to take the leap into simulation-based learning. What is this pedagogy like? What will you need to do to get started?
The virtual worlds that SIMPLE conjures may lack the special effects of World of Warcraft, but they, too, offer twisting plots, colorful characters, and devious puzzles. Students become protagonists who grow in strength by overcoming challenges. Non-Player Characters (“NPCs”) present most of these challenges, whether as the client in need of rescue or the witnesses guarding precious evidence. Fictional websites provide a virtual landscape for the students to explore in order to build their cases. And battle is joined not with the clash of swords but the exchange of documents. All of this might make for a poor adventure film, but it can add up to a believable, even exciting, legal conflict.
Here’s an example:
Students enter the simulation as associates of the firm Kerrigan, Burns &
Robertson. KB&R has been retained to represent a company that is being sued
for a slip-and-fall that occurred on its property, located in the fictional
Students then engage in both informal and formal discovery, wandering through Ardcalloch via the town’s online directory listing and virtual map (think fictional Yahoo directory and Mapquest pages). They might, for example, contact the local landscaper responsible for maintaining the area where the fall took place; within a few hours or days, they should (if they made a well-formulated request) get a witness statement. (Behind the scenes, what’s really happening is that the students send a SIMPLE message to the simulation staff, who assume the role of the landscaper and respond to the request in a manner consistent with the landscaper’s version of the facts and with the character’s personality).
As the team builds their evidentiary case, they revise their overall strategy. For example, the team might uncover new data that contradict the client’s initial statement of facts, forcing further discussion with the client and perhaps a revision of the overall theory of the case. At some point the two teams meet and negotiate a settlement (court action falls outside the scope of the simulation). The teams then step out of role and review their own performance and learning.
No goblins, no dragons, no magic, and yet this is a bona fide virtual world, one rich with performance-oriented learning experiences for law students. Law professors won’t need to learn to animate 3D monsters – but they’ll certainly need a different set of skills than mesmerizing students with brilliant lectures. They might instead benefit from studying how video games scaffold immersive, effective learning. I’ll take up that topic in the next part of this series.
- Gene Koo
Student survey on laptops in the classroom, legal writing and other LSI topics of note
A new piece from The Chronicle of Higher Education, headlined "Survey Gets Law-School Students' Thoughts on Laptops, Writing, and Ethics," covers a lot of topics that often garner our attention here at LSI. Here are a few snippets from this article:
Law-school professors are fed up with students using laptop computers in class to surf to Facebook, eBay, everything but LexisNexis. And some have even banned the distracting machines. But results from a new survey show that an outright ban might not be such a good idea.
The 2008 Law School Survey of Student Engagement, released today, suggests that, when used wisely, laptops can actually enhance student engagement. The survey found that class-related laptop use correlates highly with reported gains in several areas, including critical and analytical thinking.
Students who used laptops for class-related activities, like reading case briefs or taking notes, were more likely than students using laptops during class for other purposes to be engaged in classroom discussions, synthesize concepts from different courses, and work hard to meet faculty expectations, the survey found....
This year's survey gathered responses from 29,000 students at 85 law schools, up from 79 schools last year. The data were collected in a brief Web-based questionnaire that had a response rate of 53 percent.
The survey results show that most students receive opportunities to practice legal writing, a pillar of the law-school curriculum. Nearly 85 percent write at least one medium-length paper during the academic year, the survey report says, and 70 percent write at least one paper of 20 pages or more. But more than a third of students still reported that they would like more time to practice writing, which surprised the researchers. Such a finding, they say, shows the importance of soliciting student feedback.
"Legal education is behind most other professions in terms of having information about the student experience," said George D. Kuh, a professor of higher education at Bloomington and director of the survey. "It is steeped in tradition, which in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but that tradition did not take into account or even consider student reports of what happened to them."
All the details of the 2008 Law School Survey of Student Engagement can be found at this site. Available there is this official press release, which provides more highlights from the survey. That press release includes this account of these notable findings from the 2008 LSSSE:
More than a third of all law students wanted more opportunities to do practice-based legal writing during law school.
Students pointed to clinics and professional responsibility courses as the most effective settings for learning legal ethics.
Posted by DAB
September 27, 2008
Liveblogging the Future of the Law School Casebook workshop part 2
Part 2, moderated by David Skover, is "The Printed Casebook & Its Print/Electronic Alternatives: advantages & disadvantages in content & delivery systems." We broke into four groups loosely discussing these topics without any formal structure. Summary notes of each groups reportback follows the jump...
First group: Is every change positive? How is the Bar driving how schools teach? Disagreement between preparing for the Bar vs. other teaching goals. How do you handle assessment tools? What are the forces driving innovation -- probably it's convenience, not pricing. Don't dichotomize between print and electronic -- it's a continuum.
Second group: What's wrong with the casebook? Lacks flexibility, customizability, doesn't take advantage of new media. What will it look like? Probably not a purely open database because newer professors want some structure -- more a set of modules that would represent a course. What role does the publishing industry have in this future? Creation, marketing, distribution?
Third group: Books are just a modality -- form of what we're creating (books) isn't intrinsic but a practicality. Impediments -- law schools' reward structure not geared towards creativity of teaching.
Fourth group: "Flexibility" -- how to give teachers maximum flexibility for designing, using content in the classroom. Would require a production team, law profs, technologists, instructional designers. How to disaggregate to obtain optimal granularity: (1) instructional design -- should correlate to learning objectives; (2) authoring systems -- should be separate from the delivery system, allowing multi-channel distribution; (3) delivery system -- make it optimal for class, or even individual students; (4) business model -- preference for open source but accommodating of commercial units, a payment model that would be consistent between the two.
Subsequent discussion points:
- Print lacks inherent value as a delivery mechanism? Distinguish between the entire value chain of print vs. final print product. Non-flexibility has some value for certainty of who's writing what.
- Is there a difference between electronic & print "thinking"? Some research suggests that the gap in cognitive absorption of learning between e & p is shrinking (see Bill Hill's research at Microsoft; see John Palfrey's Born Digital; see MacArthur's recent series).
- Generativity and interoperativity (on open standards) as watchwords of PLATFORMS moving forward.
- Is the digital / media evolution of practice going to change teaching with it?
- Bar exam driving law school pedagogy: might be an opportunity to teach differently. This is generating significant discussion.
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 19, 2008
Liveblogging the CALI Conference 2008: Deliberate Practice and Skills Instruction
Larry Farmer of BYU School of Law is describing how he set up an intensive skills course -- which may not be cheaper than other methods, but which he believes to be superior in quality and results (largely because it requires adding adjunct instructors).
The problem: In his 8 years of observing lawyers practicing, Larry saw that interviewing and counseling skills levels would plateau quickly after some improvement over pre-existing skill set and remain relatively static. So: (a) What would it take to graduate students with greater skills, and (b) provide them with the tools for reflective practice to continue to improve in practice over the long haul.
The solution: Emulate how experts learn in other areas of practice such as sports and performing arts: deliberate practice.
In practice, this entailed:
- Dissecting the skill set: what were practitioners doing wrong?
- Motivating the students and providing them with sufficient practice experience to learn.
Attempts at reflection didn't succeed: They were shallow and didn't provide insight into actual performance. So they turned to recording. This changed the nature of class and what happened in class -- classes are often practice-centered, while much of the learning happens virtually, afterwards.
The core goal is to provide students with practice time and maximize their deliberate reflection on that practice. One effect of recording is to focus the students on the task of practice.
Evaluation challenge -- guiding feedback, providing technical ability to annotate; largely addressed with MediaNotes.
Management challenge -- how to move the video artifacts and feedback back and forth? BYU is using Sharepoint to manage documents and workflow. (Requires students to name files carefully). Students are paired up: in each pair, each student plays both a lawyer and a standardized client. Students inhabit that client role for the entire semester, but paired up with different student-lawyers, which improves their roleplaying skills over time as well.
- Lay out a sequence of skills
- Provide a standardized client with whom to practice the skills
- Provide the context in which to engage that client
- Record the exercise
- Provide a workflow within which to push the video to the reviewer and then back to the student
In the case of BYU, the expert reviewers are former students who performed well -- in part, a motivation and reward. These reviewers receive additional training in evaluation and feedback techniques, on top of their existing performance knowledge/skills. These adjunct faculty, who are in practice, also provide feedback to the simulations to ensure verisimilitude. This feedback is critical: just viewing videos of "good" practice doesn't seem to be enough for students to correct performance. These reviewers also reduces instructor overhead and burnout.
Despite initial skepticism, the BYU administration is expanding financial support to this program because of student feedback indicating expanded confidence in their own skills and efficacy.
How to get started when you don't have graduates to come back as reviewers? During the first few years, focus on developing this cadre of reviewers and offering less evaluation, except from the professor.
Liveblogging the CALI Conference 2008: Simulated Practice in-depth
SIMPLE is a system for authoring and managing practice simulations for professional learning, especially practices that are document- and transaction-centered. SIMPLE can, for example, articulate a multi-party negotiation, collaborative drafting of documents, complex litigation, etc.
Some articles about SIMPLE:
- Article: Authentic Fictions: Simulation, Professionalism, and Legal Learning (Clinical Law Review, PDF)
- Article: Simulations, Learning and the Metaverse (PDF)
Pedagogy of simulations
Often, students are coming in from essay/exam-based undergraduate course: thus some transitional learning is critical. At Strathclyde, lectures have been largely designed out in favor of transactional learning, with rare lectures focused on dynamic speakers. Otherwise, knowledge-transmission is pushed into webcasts/podcasts between sessions.
(More after the break)
-- Gene Koo
Overview of the SIMPLE interface
Student logs in and sees, essentially, an inbox of documents/communications related to one transaction, with calendar and tasks (much like Outlook). There's also a document bank (like Google Docs) that include documents, map of the fictional town where the simulation takes place, websites for fictional firms and companies, etc.
Backstage, teachers have a list of characters within the simulation and can assume that role. There's also a list of variables that allow the simulation to be modified in small but important ways to make each instance of the simulation unique (which doubles as a plagiarism-catching device). A Narrative Event Diagram shows how the transaction proceeds from the perspective of the staff, Non-Player Characters (staff puppets), Player Characters, and critical events that pop up.
Student work is assessed as normal -- usually they submit a specific document like a motion or a memo. Feedback goes back to the student in role of the managing partner.
Students also conduct self- and peer-assessment, which provides early warning signals about slackers within teams. They also log times, much like they bill hours in practice.
Logistics of simulations
Simulations have generally run between 1-2 days to 12 weeks. This may have ripple effects on other courses: could their simulation activities suck up all of their time from other classes? It's a disruptive technology that changes everything about how teaching/learning happens.
What does this do to teaching? The instructors and mentors are essentially role-playing, responding to student-driven actions with more information (or mis-information) and documents.
(Note that in Glasgow, there are only TWO (2) full-time faculty for 270 students).
The simulation is designed to highlight particular areas of knowledge as well as specific skills. This would include "traps," such as one party having the wrong location for an accident requiring more investigation (or wasting resources pursuing a red herring).
Simulations are also built around "standardized clients" -- a term borrowed from medicine, in which "standardized patients" provide a common experience for all students that hits important learning points.
Simulations also need to catch students before they go off the track. Careful mentoring by the instructors should guide the firm (students) back on track, in-role as the students' supervisors. For example, in one case students tried to arrest funds at the bank, which would have taken the case out of bounds, so the tutors had to act in-role as the bank to reject the requests to steer the sim back.
(I would note that there is substantial overlap between designing a good simulation and designing a good computer game. See especially What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Literacy and Learning.
Practice management sessions help students analyze and cope with inter-personal team issues.
Simulations "blueprints" are big capital investments -- it makes eminent sense for teachers to share and modify them.
What does it take to make SIMPLE happen?
Two ways to interact with SIMPLE that do not require technical knowledge: (1) Build the simulation; (2) upload the simulation to the platform. The authoring tools have been simplified to allow laypeople to create simulations.
Thus, requires up-front investment in creating the simulation, which can be capital intensive.
However, in terms of ongoing execution, it only requires 1 Professor, 8 Mentors (post-grad adjuncts) -- the simulation requires little upkeep and maintenance. The Mentors play the various roles in the simulation, from the parties to the firm partners to shopkeepers or even unexpected characters.
May 01, 2008
Seeking information and ideas on innovative final formats
I have long been troubled by the traditional time-pressured, in-class law school final exam format. In over a decade of teaching, I have always used a take-home format for my upper-level courses: I will often use a 48-hour format if I want some issue-spotting questions and a two-week format if I want more policy/research questions (and I always have strict word limits for each question).
In first-year classes, however, the use of non-traditional exam formats seems to create added stress for students and also creates some additional administrative headaches. For this reason, I have traditionally used the standard in-class final exam formats for first-year classes (though I have been noticing some colleagues gravitating toward the one-day, eight-hour take home format for more and more 1L classes).
Never content to make things easy, this term in my Spring 1L Legislation course, I decided to try a combined take-home/in-class format (details here). Though I do not yet know if my students liked this approach (perhaps they will tell me here), I do know that I liked the basic concept of combining the take-home and in-class formats for 1Ls. I am wondering if anyone else has ever tried this and, more generally, about experiences and ideas concerning truly innovative final formats.
Posted by DAB
February 15, 2008
New Teaching Blog - The BLT
Elon University Law School, the home of Professor Steve Friedland, has starting a new blog on Learning and Teaching, "affectionately known as the BLT." "The blog is intended to serve as a forum for law teachers, students, administrators and practitioners to share different perspectives on how learning can be improved in law schools."
ellen s. podgor
January 22, 2008
Should Law Profs Require Student Blog Participation?
That's the question Adjunct Law Prof Blog editor Mitchell Rubinstein asked after noting that Barry Law School Adjunct Professor Marc John Randazza gives credit for student participation on his blog, The Legal Satyricon. The question has created a mini-dust storm in the blogosphere. Check out the comments to Rubinstein's original post and the following posts and their comments:
- Susan Cartier Liebel's post, Knickers Are Twisting Over Innovative Adjunct Telling Students They MUST Blog on Build a Solo Practice
- Scott Greenfield's post, Adjunct Accused of Misblawgary on Simple Justice
- Randazza's Post
- And Rubinstein's follow-up post on Adjunct Law Prof Blog
-- Joe Hodnicki
November 06, 2007
Do law profs have a duty to help student deal with disappointing grades?
I just saw via SSRN this new paper by Grant Morris, entitled "Preparing Law Students for Disappointing Exam Results: Lessons from Casey at the Bat," which asserts that law professors have a duty to help students deal with disappointing grades. Here is the paper's abstract:
It is a statistical fact of life that two-thirds of the law students who enter law school will not graduate in the upper one-third of their law school class. Typically, those students are disappointed in their examination grade results and in their class standing. Nowhere does this disappointment manifest itself more than in their attitude toward their classes. In the fall semester of their first year, students are eager, excited, and willing to participate in class discussion. But after they receive their first semester grade results, many students withdraw from the learning process — they are depressed and disengaged. They suffer a significant loss of self-esteem.
This article considers whether law professors should prepare their students for the disappointing results — the poor grades — that many are certain to receive. I assert that professors do indeed have a role to play — in fact, a duty to their students — to confront this problem. I offer a strategy by which professors can acknowledge students' pre-examination anxiety and deal constructively with their impending disappointment. There are lessons to be learned from Casey at the Bat, Ernest Lawrence Thayer's immortal poem about failure.