Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Tech skills are the key to law students’ future employment ..."

Though I have not blogged in this space for a very long time, my own long history here of discussing how I think technologies should be at the center of law school innovation prompted me to want to blog about this new ABA article which has a headline that provides the basis for the title of this post.  Here is how the article starts:

Law professor Daniel Martin Katz is betting the pot – his future and those of his students – on a radical model of legal training and job placement.

Katz's ReInvent Law Laboratory, which he co-founded and co-directs with fellow Michigan State University College of Law professor Renee Newman Knake, aims to prepare students and practicing lawyers for what the face of law will become as traditional delivery models stagnate and legal technology startups and alternative service providers continue to expand.

"The part [of the legal profession] that is actually growing – the Clearspires, the Axioms, legal process outsourcers and software companies – they need people with particular sets of skills who have domain expertise and can build software that works to solve legal problems," says Katz, an associate law professor with a tech and public policy background – an unusual combination in legal academia. "They need lawyers who know the law, understand software and technology, and [know] how to mesh the two."

Katz's familiarity and expertise with visual design, computer science and big data are missing from most law school faculties, says MSU Law dean Joan W. Howarth, who recruited Katz to be a change agent at her school. "I was especially pleased when Dan took his expertise and his passion to questions about the future of the legal profession and industry," Howarth says, "because he has the skills to be able to think about, write about and push forward any kind of subject."

To that end, the ReInvent Law module includes a core curriculum of classes designed to teach students and practicing lawyers "hard skills" such as quantitative legal prediction (including technology that predicts whether a client has a case, the odds of winning it and which arguments should be used in support). The program also promotes the research and development of legal service models that are affordable, accessible and widely adopted through startup competitions and free daylong seminars designed to spark ideas and conversation among leading entrepreneurs and legal innovators. That crowd includes Katz's students, who are gaining the attention of legal employers – and getting hired.

Some related prior posts:

Posted by DAB

September 3, 2013 in Legal profession realities and developments | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Unkind Cuts: Shrinking the law school budget

Legal education is under strain:  Fewer people are applying to law school, and those who apply are less qualified.  One result of this dynamic is that law schools are admitting fewer students, in order to keep qualifications up, but that means less tuition money is coming in.  Because of this, many law schools are having to shrink their budgets.

There are no easy cuts in a well-run law school.  There are only four areas that comprise enough of the budget that cutting them will make a difference:  Faculty salaries, staff salaries, tuition remission (scholarship money for students), and library staff and acquisitions.  

Faculty salaries are very difficult to cut.  It often is a violation of tenure rules to cut the salary of a tenured professor, and untenured professors have both smaller salaries and often more mobility-- meaning that you will lose your best young teachers if you cut their salary.

Cutting staff is difficult, too.  Most law schools don't have a lot of fat, and some positions are mandated by parent universities.  The big areas of staff are admissions/student recruitment and career services, and cutting either will hurt in efforts to bring in quality students.  That said, some schools do seem to be reacting to a budget crunch by cutting staff.

Reducing the amount of tuition remission will have the effect of raising tuition, particularly for the students a school most wants to attract (those with high LSAT scores and grades).  Cutting tuition remission will lead to a further lessening of qualifications for an incoming class.

This all leaves library staffing and acquisitions an unfortunate target.  Such cuts affect faculty scholarship, but indirectly.

Looking at this as a whole, my guess is that many law schools are dealing with budget shortfalls by cutting library expenses and eliminating staff or reducing their salaries.  In some cases, this may not have an immediate negative effect, but for others it may pose grave risks.  Legal education is changing, and if that change is reducing student services and the historic role of libraries, it may not be for the good.

-- Mark Osler 

October 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mentoring-- innovative, practical, and achievable

One of the things we do well here at St. Thomas is establish mentor relationships for our students with lawyers in the community-- every student has a mentor.

Neil Hamilton and Verna Monson have done some significant and important work in this area, and are going to be sharing it at this event:

The University of St. Thomas is hosting a conference on law school mentor programs on October 4-6.  The conference,  Managing Mentor Programs in a Time of Change, will host faculty, law school staff members, and members of the bar for two days to discuss how to best implement and manage mentor conferences.  The University of St. Thomas is a good place for the discussion as since its founding the school has had a one to one mentoring program as part of the curriculum and one of the sessions will be on the work of Neil Hamilton and Verna Monson who are using metrics to measure the impact of mentoring on professional development.   More information about the conference can be found at:  www.stthomas.edu/law/mentorconference2012 .  The main sponsor of the conference is the National Legal Mentoring Consortium who also has a  new web page at www.legalmentoring.org

-- Mark Osler

September 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dean searches and new ideas

It appears that there are about 30-some dean searches going on this year, which strikes me as a high number.  I suspect that every single candidate for every one of those searches (a group that I am, thankfully, not a part of) is being asked a variation of the same question:  "How could you, as Dean, help us remake our school to survive the tremendous changes in the legal market over the past five years?" 

Sadly, we don't know what answers have been given-- but I'm sure there have been some good ones (at least good enough to get someone the job). 

I suspect that the truest answer is also one that is often least popular with legal academic:  That schools need to slim down, focus more on teaching, and be less indulgent of faculty. 

What a dilemna for dean candidates!

For those of you who have been part of searches, what good answers have you heard?

-- Mark Osler

August 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Who wants to help me make "Law Profs in Loafers getting Lattes"?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new web-series from Jerry Seinfeld which is titled "Comedians in Cars getting Coffe."  While I am certain that watching law professors walk to a coffee shop will be much less entertaining than what Seinfeld is creating, I am also certain that I would rather enjoy watching the likes of, say, Larry Tribe and Cass Sunstein walking to Harvard Square to grab a cup of joe.  (Or, better yet in the hope of getting this post linked by some of the most popular law prof bloggers, perhaps the first episodes should feature Eugene Volokh with Orin Kerr and Ann Althouse with Paul Caron and Dan Markel with Dan Solove.)

I think I am (nearly) serious about the notion of creating a web-series with talking and walking law profs, so anyone with some venture capital (or a good video camera and some web skills) ought to contact me.  For the time being as I think about how to get this project off the ground, perhaps readers can recommend sets of law profs they would like to see paired together for a trip to Starbucks.

Posted by DAB

August 5, 2012 in Blogging by lawyers and law professors, Scholarship -- online, Technology -- for advancing scholarship | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The National Jurist produces list of "most innovative law school"

Via e-mail, I received word of this new annoucement from The National Jurist:

Law schools are pushing the boundaries of the traditional law school model and experimenting at a level that legal education has not seen for several years, a new story reveals.

The National Jurist invited every law school in the U.S. to submit a nomination for how it is innovating its curriculum. More than 40 schools responded, showing that schools are experimenting with boot camps, mentoring programs, technology and programs that mirror the medical school model.

“We were surprised and impressed by the level of innovation today,” said Jack Crittenden, Editor In Chief of The National Jurist. “Legal educators are no longer just talking about change — they are taking the first steps to make it happen.”...

The National Jurist will publish all of the honorees in the Back to School issue of preLaw magazine, due out in late August.  It will also publish details about each school on its website in August.  Here is the list in alphabetical order:

  • Elon University School of Law
  • Hamline University School of Law
  • Indiana University Maurer School of Law
  • Loyola Law School Los Angeles
  • New York Law School
  • Ohio Northern University
  • Pennsylvania State University The Dickinson School of Law
  • Phoenix School of Law
  • Stanford Law School
  • Southwestern Law School
  • Syracuse University College of Law
  • Thomas Jefferson School of Law
  • Tulane University Law School
  • University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • University of Denver Sturm College of Law
  • University of District of Columbia
  • University of Hawai’i
  • University of Illinois College of Law
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law

In part because necessity is the mother of invention, I am not surprised to see on this list a number of schools that are surely struggling in the new tighter market for law jobs and law students. That said, I am looking forward to seeing the forthcoming full National Jurist article discussing just what makes these 20 schools especially innovative.

Posted by DAB

July 25, 2012 in Deans and innovations, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, 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.

July 12, 2012 in Deans and innovations, Teaching -- pedagogy, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"ABA: Law schools getting the message on practical skills"

The title of this post is the headline of this new article from The National Law Journal. Here is how it starts:

The dismal job market for newly minted lawyers has influenced how most law school administrators approach their course offerings, with 76 percent of the institutions surveyed by the American Bar Association reporting that they've modified their curricula to adapt. 

That's one key finding in the ABA's first empirical survey of law school curricula in a decade, which will be released on Aug. 4 during the organization's annual meeting in Chicago.

The influence the employment picture is having on law school classes is seen most obviously in the rise of so-called practical skills courses: clinics, simulations and externships.  Law schools have increased their course offerings in each of those areas, according to the report.

The survey uses the findings of a previous ABA study of curricula that covered the years 1992 to 2002 as a baseline for comparison.   "The survey responses reveal a renewed commitment by law schools to review and revise their curricula to produce practice-ready professionals," said Hulett "Bucky" Askew, the ABA's consultant on legal education.  "The report illuminates the extent to which faculties and administrators have responded to the evolving needs of their students and to changes in the legal services industry."

Media scrutiny of law school curricula has also fueled some of the changes, said Southwestern Law School Professor Catherine Carpenter, chair of the ABA committee that produced the report.  Additionally, more than half of the schools surveyed reported being influenced by two separate reports that called for more professionalism and real-world skills in law schools: The so-called Carnegie Report and Best Practices for Legal Education, both published in 2007.

"Wholesale curricular review has produced experimentation and change at all levels of the curriculum, resulting in new programs and courses, new and enhanced experiential learning, and greater emphasis on various kinds of writing across the curriculum," Carpenter said.

The vast majority of law schools — 87 percent — now offer at least one joint-degree program, with the J.D./MBA combination the most common.  While law school curricula have become more skills oriented, other areas have remained largely static.  The survey found that the average number of credits hours required for graduation increased to 89 units in 2010, up from 88 one decade ago.  Roughly the same number of schools reported requiring specific courses after the first year as they did in 2002, and subject matter tested by bar examinations appeared to play no role in course requirements, according to the survey.

July 8, 2012 in Serving students, Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"This Godforsaken Profession"

One of my friends on Facebook, a relatively new lawyer (and not a St. Thomas grad), recently posted a striking warning on his wall in connection with this link (which describes a Boston law firm offering new hires $10,000/year):

If you ever listen to one piece of advice from me: Do Not Consider Going To Law School. Please. Only Go If They Will Let You Go For Free. We need your intelligence and brilliance in other areas much more than this godforsaken profession.

He's not alone.  This is the message being sent out by thousands of recent law grads:  "Don't go to law school."  The target audience, potential students, seem to be listening, too-- applications are down almost everywhere.  What is scary to me is not that grads like this one are issuing such warnings.  What is alarming is that I don't see a systemic reaction to these new realities by law schools, particularly those law schools that are most vulnerable to dramatic drops in enrollment. 
-- Mark Osler 


June 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Should law schools help "incubate" solo practicioners?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this article in the National Law Journal, which is headlined "The next solo incubator will be in San Diego."  Here are excerpts:

Recent graduates of Thomas Jefferson School of Law who want to launch solo practices will soon have some extra support from their alma mater.  The school is the latest to start a solo incubator — a post-graduation program intended to provide affordable office space and mentoring from law faculty and alumni to help graduates gain experience and learn how to run their own practices.

The City University of New York School of Law was the first to create such a program in 2007, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and Pace Law School have followed.

"We don't take part in their law offices, but we'll provide mentorship and support," said Thomas Jefferson professor Luz Herrera, who is spearheading the initiative. "We'll also have a listserve that will put them in contact with more experienced attorneys."

The school will start taking applications for the program in July, and expects to have between six and eight participants initially.  They will spend between 12 and 18 months in the incubator.  Assisting them will be MBA students at San Diego State University, who will research the solo practitioner market in the city to help identify unmet legal needs and suggest prices for their services, Herrera said....

Fred Rooney, who developed CUNY's solo incubator, traveled to San Diego to help Herrera and other Thomas Jefferson faculty to help develop to the program.  He said he has been fielding requests from many law schools for information and ideas.  "As more solo incubators are conceptualized by law schools, each one is going to be unique," Rooney said. "I think the Thomas Jefferson model is going to emphasize cross-border matters," given that San Diego's close proximity to the Mexican border.

Thomas Jefferson will start a solo practice concentration within its curriculum next fall to prepare students who want to go that route. The school has asked local bar associations and practicing attorneys to submit proposals for what that curriculum should cover, Herrera said. The preliminary plan calls for a series of practicing attorneys to lecture on topics ranging from how to market yourself to how to maintain good relationships with opposing counsel.

I have long feared that too much of the professional and professionalism training that I try to give to my students in both doctrinal and skills courses unduly reflect only the large-national-firm "BigLaw" realities I experienced in my years in practice.  Thus, I very much like the idea of law school classes and related programming that is focused around a different model/structure for legal practice.

That said, I have always wonder how effective and successful  a true "solo" practitioner can be over time without eventually getting significant help from other lawyers and/or professional staff.  For that reason, I am not sure I like the idea of encouraging young lawyers to be thinking about a "solo" practice rather than a "small" practice.  Put differently, before embarking on a sustained effort to "incubate" solo practioners, I think a law school might be best served by exploring what kinds of small firm structures appear to be most successful in their region -- as judged by the client market and in the view of lawyers working therein -- and then developing programming to help junior lawyers join or develop these kinds of small-firm structures.  Such a program might not only serve the students, but also local small firms (which, I suspect, have little time/ability to recruit and train junior lawyers, even if/when they have the need for them as their legal business increases).

Posted by DAB

May 17, 2012 in Employment, Legal profession realities and developments, Service -- legal profession, Serving students, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wash. U. innovates with online law masters programs

I am intrigued to see this new article from the New York Times concerning showing the details of a real law school innovation coming from the Show Me State.   The article it headlined "Law School Plans to Offer Web Courses for Master’s," and here are excerpts:

The law school of Washington University announced Tuesday that it would offer, entirely online, a master’s degree in United States law intended for lawyers practicing overseas, in partnership with 2tor, an education technology company.

Legal education has been slow to move to online classes, and the new master’s program is perhaps the earliest partnership between a top-tier law school and a commercial enterprise.

“We don’t know where the students are going to come from exactly, but we believe there is demand abroad for an online program with the same quality that we deliver in St. Louis, accessible to people who can’t uproot their lives to come to the United States,” said Kent D. Syverud, the dean of the law school, which currently offers students on campus a Master of Law degree, or LL.M., in United States law for foreign lawyers. “It’s not designed to prepare students for the bar exam.”

Nonetheless, graduates of the new program, which will include live discussions via webcam and self-paced online materials, would probably be eligible to take the California bar exam.

Washington University will share the revenues from the $48,000 program — the same tuition paid by students at the St. Louis campus — with 2tor, which will provide marketing, the Web platform and technical support, including a staff member to monitor each live class and deal with any technical problems that arise.

2tor, a four-year-old company based in Maryland, has partnerships in place with the University of Southern California, Georgetown and the University of North Carolina for online graduate degree programs in education, business, public administration and nursing....

A growing number of law schools offer online master’s degrees in specialized areas of law, like taxation, health care, estate planning, the environment or business transactions. Florida Coastal School of Law, a commercial school, offers a master’s in United States law, created, like the Washington University program, for international lawyers.

New York University Law School’s online Executive LL.M in Tax program enrolls more than 100 students, mostly from the United States, with a smattering from other countries. “Online students can see videos of all the brick-and-mortar classes,” said Joshua D. Blank, faculty director of the graduate tax program, which has been available online since 2008. “We use the same technology Netflix uses to watch movies online. Now that there’s the technology to do this, I think there’s a lot of room for these programs to grow.”...

Classes will be kept small and, Mr. Syverud said, will re-create the discussion between students and professors that characterizes most in-person legal education. Mr. Syverud said he hoped to enroll 20 students in the first group, starting in January, and have four groups a year, totaling more than 100 students.

Posted by DAB

May 9, 2012 in Deans and innovations, Technology -- in the classroom, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Is there a success story?

Law schools across the country seem to share a common belief:  That if their faculty publish more academic scholarship, and place it in better journals, then the U.S. News ranking of the school will improve.  Schools have expended great time and expense on this project, and reshaped their faculties in pursuit of this goal.  In hiring and at tenure review, most places view scholarship as being more important than teaching, in part for this reason.  This belief has played a role not only in restructuring our institutions, but our values.

Is it a myth?

Looking back over several years of rankings, I have trouble identifying schools for whom this tactic was successful.  After all, if scholarship can result in a long-term improvement in the rankings, shouldn't there be success stories? 

So tell me-- where are they?  What are the schools that managed, through increased scholarship rather that other factors, to significantly improve their rankings over the long-term (as opposed to brief jumps)?

Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

-- Mark Osler 

April 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 13, 2012

A New Blog About Law School Reform, by Students

It's about time!

I got a message recently from Tina Tanhehco, who is a law student at UNC.  She and a hardy band of fellow students at a variety of schools have started a new and vibrant blog called Law Schooled, which already has built up an intriguing pile of thoughts (including this take on some of my posts here).

Here is their mission statement:

Law Schooled is an open forum for students to discuss legal education and law school reform.  This blog and network aims to include all members of the law school community in a substantive discussion about how students can play a role in shaping the future of legal education.

From what I can see, these guys are articulate, thoughtful, and use technology well.  I hope more students jump on their bus, and things really start to roll!

-- Mark Osler


April 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Four provocative suggestions for law school reform from Brian Leiter

I am not sure what prompted this new post at Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, titled "Four Changes to the Status Quo in Legal Education That Might Be Worth Something," but I think it is a post that is surely worth reading.  Here are highlights of Leiter's proposals:

1.  Higher education in America includes research universities and teaching colleges (the latter placing less emphasis on research); law schools need the same division of labor, so that we have some law schools that are Harvard and Chicago, and some law schools that are Oberlin and Reed.  How to bring it about is the really hard part, but changes to ABA accreditation rules could surely help....

2.  Judge Posner suggested some time ago that law school be shortened to two years, with a third year optional depending on a student's career goals. Those who want to be tax lawyers could do what is, in effect, the LLM in tax in the third year; those who want to be legal scholars could devote the third year either to cultivating scholarly skills or teaching skills, depending on their academic goals (per #1); those who haven't secured permanent employment after two years could use the third (at some appropriately reduced cost) in externships designed to enhance marketability, with some supervision from academic or clinical faculty; and so on....

3.  Cut the number of law reviews by 75%, and turn the remaining ones over to faculty supervision, with students still working on them, but no longer vested with editorial control....

4.  Finally, and no doubt most controversially, law schools need real tenure standards and real post-tenure review. Real tenure standards means law schools should deny tenure two or three times as often as they presently do, and on the basis of a genuine qualitative review of scholarship.  Post-tenure review -- say, once every ten years -- should operate within the current tenure framework, which means termination only for good cause....

Thoughts on this list?  Other suggestions or modifications of justified law school reforms?

Posted by DAB

March 19, 2012 in Law Reviews, Law School Management, The mission of law schools, The tenure process | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The 2013 US News law school rankings: A call on Yale to drop out

Today is the day that the US News Law School Rankings are released. This is not a reason for celebration even where (as here) a school jumped up in the rankings. As I have written recently, these rankings create bad incentives and are a poor measure of what we do, at any school.

Big scandals at Villanova and Illinois should have sent a message out about the risks of trying to cheat. But, gaming of the numbers continues. I was shocked to see in this NY Post article that Fordham Law School is boosting its employment numbers by giving almost 15% of its graduates temporary jobs at the school itself. This matters a great deal in the rankings, since most schools in Fordham's range report an employment rate well over 80%-- so a true reporting of independent employment would knock Fordham down the rankings significantly.

We'd be better off without these rankings, all of us. I say that despite the fact that my alma mater is #1 overall, that my home school is seeing a big jump up.... we all would be better off without them.

Treating the US News Rankings like they matter is something that nearly all law schools do, because no one wants to drop out of the system and go to the 4th Tier. We all know it is wrong, and we all keep doing it, even when it is worsening (or, some would say, creating) the crisis in legal education.

It's time for the leaders to lead. Yale Law should drop out of the system, and urge others to follow. I loved my time at Yale, value what they do, and will feel the same way regardless of rankings. True leadership is bold, often selfless, and moves towards what is true and good. It is time for Yale to lead.

-- Mark Osler

March 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 13, 2012

The 2012 Conference of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools!

May 2-4, Touro Law School will be hosting the 2012 RALS conference, which is open to all (including those who teach at non-religious institutions).  You can get all the details here.  This wil be the first time such a conference has been held at a Jewish-affilliated school.

Religiously-affiliated law schools have been at the forefront of many innovations over the past two decades, such as the inclusion of social justice within the mission of a school.  At past conferences, a vigorous discussion has grown out of the diversity of views within this group, which includes Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish institutions. 

The conference is timed so that participants can conveniently combine their time at Touro with a weekend in New York City.

-- Mark Osler    

February 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Danger of False Proxies

I'm coming to the realization that in many parts of my work, I am dealing with the same demon:  False proxies.  In short, a false proxy is a quantitative, seemingly objective measure that inaccurately or incompletely reflects the truth and sends our efforts in the wrong direction.

For example, in my field of criminal law success is still measured in many quarters (on the law enforcement side) by how many people we lock up and for how long, but this is a false proxy for real success in solving problems.  This false proxy is enhanced by an underlying and even worse proxy-- that we use the weight of drugs possessed as a proxy for the culpability of an individual defendant, a standard that leads to high sentences for mules and street dealers.

In advising my students, I find that salary serves as a false proxy for the quality of a job.  Setting aside those people who have high debt to be paid off, there seems to be a weakness for the easy marker of big money even when the need is not there.

Finally (and probably predictably for readers of this blog) there is the false proxy of US News rankings as a measure of law school quality.

What is so alluring about these quantitative measures?  Primarily, they are easy-- we can evaluate things without the heavy lifting involved in sorting through nuanced outcomes and individualized circumstances.  We live in a society where quantification is prized, but rank-ordering everything has a steep price.  What is lost is too often those things that are deep and challenging and meaningful, and we academics (critical thinkers that we are) need to take the lead in modeling a better way.

-- Mark Osler



January 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

CALI Offering Free Open Online Course on Digital Law Practice

The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) is once again pushing the envelope in legal education by offering law faculty, law students, and lawyers an opportunity to participate in a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled Topics in Digital Law Practice. This free, online, 9 week course is open to all with live sessions held on Friday afternoons beginning Friday, February 10, 2012 at 2 PM ET. 

From the course website:

This course is designed to provide an overview of the changes that are occurring in the practice of law today, especially with respect to technology. It will introduce law students for real-world situations that they will encounter in the job market and point law professors to new avenues to cover in their courses.

The course will run for one hour a week for nine weeks and will feature a different guest speaker each week. Each class will be delivered via webcast and will have a 30 minute lecture presentation followed by a question & answer period and an online, interactive homework assignment for all course students to complete. There will be no formal assessment like midterms or a final exam.

The audience for this seminar is primarily law students and law faculty who will be given priority. Anyone else can join the course for one or all of the sessions. The presentations will be recorded and posted to the course blog.

Registration for this course is required.


-- Elmer R. Masters
Full disclosure: I am CALI's Director of Internet Development

January 26, 2012 in Announcements, Electronic Education, Technology -- in general, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA Teach-In

No blackout, but a teach-in in lieu thereof:


Some thoughtful comments on SOPA:


Mark Lemley, David Levine & David Post--Stanford Law Review Online--Don't Break the Internet.

EFF, Stop the Internet Blacklist Legislation

Mozilla et al Letter on SOPA

Law Professors' Letter in Opposition to SOPA (I signed the letter)

TechDirt's Mike Masnick, Open Letter to Chris Dodd


Floyd Abrams' testimony in defense of the Protect IP Act

Anupam Chander

January 18, 2012 in Electronic Education | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 16, 2012

"While legal academia dithers over reform, the profession may be passing them by"

The title of this post is the sub-heading of this new piece in The National Law Journal, which carries the main headline "What is law school for, anyway?". The piece is a must-read for all would-be law school innovators, and here are excerpts:

The state of the profession has not traditionally been a focus of law professors, said George Washington University Law School professor Thomas Morgan, author of the book The Vanishing American Lawyer.  That remained true until about one year ago, when more people within the academy started taking note of the rumblings within the profession, he said. "We need to try and bridge what is a mutual set of problems," Morgan said.

Still, there remains a gap between the magnitude of change advocated by some within the profession and the modest innovations law schools are pursuing.  Those innovations include a wider array of clinics, harnessing technology in simulations and student projects, and teaching transactional lawyering skills.

"I think they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," said Susan Hackett, chief executive officer of consulting firm Legal Executive Leadership and former general counsel of the Association of Corporate Counsel.  "The discussion seems to be, 'Let's add a Thursday evening extra-credit course on the legal profession that meets for a couple of hours.' That's just tweaking around the edges."

Instead, Hackett suggested a re-engineering of law curricula to include an initial phase of core courses followed by a year of executive education-style classes covering topics including business skills, legal technology and behavioral management.  The final phase would involve clinics or externships in law firms, legal departments, government agencies or nonprofit organizations.  These could replace the traditional law firm summer associateships and would be more substantive, she said.

Missing in the conversation was any focus on what skills corporate clients actually want in their lawyers, Hackett said, such as the ability to solve problems and understand financial statements.  "I truly think there are a significant number of people in legal education who think that what a client wants is irrelevant," she said.  "They just want to teach the law."

Others warned that framing the discussion solely in terms of what large law firms and corporate clients want ignores that the vast majority of law school graduates don't work in so-called Big Law, but rather in small firms, solo practice, government or nonprofits — or even as nonlawyers.  Identifying exactly what skills and knowledge students should take away from law school is more complicated than critics suggest, said University of Richmond School of Law Dean Wendy Perdue and Northeastern University School of Law Dean Emily Spieler.

Posted by DAB

January 16, 2012 in Deans and innovations, Legal profession realities and developments, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)