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March 15, 2008

A great panel on how law school could/should teach integrity

I am in Boston attending this Harvard Law School event, "A Celebration of Public Interest."  Though all the events have been interesting and informative, this panel I am at right now was worth the price of admission:

How do you teach integrity: What role should law schools play?

Moderator: Jamienne S. Studley '75, President, Public Advocates Inc. (bio)

David Hall '85, Senior Vice President and Provost, Northeastern University (bio)

David A. Hoffman '84, Lecturer, Harvard Law School; Founding Partner, Boston Law Collaborative (bio)

Jeffrey Purcell '84, Senior Attorney, Housing Unit, Greater Boston Legal Services (bio)

Henry (Hank) J. Shea '81, Senior Distinguished Fellow, University of St. Thomas School of Law; Fellow, Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions (bio)

I am writing this post in part because I want to remember to contact all these people in the weeks ahead to see if I can get them to guest-lecture in my courses.  But I also want to encourage others to contact these folks if they are concerned about these issues (and because I am cautiously hopeful all these folks won't mind being contacted by would-be law school innovators).

Posted by DAB

March 15, 2008 in Legal profession realities and developments | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Starting a radical law school revolution at Wash & Lee

Though mentioned by Mark here, Washington and Lee's new radical reform of its 3L yeay deserve a lot of attention.  Notably, a while ago in this post, I set out the seemingly radical idea of having an entire 3L year in which students could not take standard doctrinal courses.  The new Wash & Lee program takes this idea further: as Dean Rod Smolla explains here, Wash & Lee is "entirely reinventing the third year to make it a year of professional development through simulated and actual practice experiences."

After reading this helpful pdf describing the new Wash & Lee program, I no longer view these comments by Dean Smolla (with may emphasis added) as overstatement:

This is one of the boldest reforms in American legal education since Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell pioneered the new curriculum at Harvard Law School in the late 19th century.  For the next 100 years, American law schools largely followed the Harvard model, and in many respects it has worked remarkably well.

We are at a turning point in the history of the legal profession and the history of legal education. As the Carnegie Foundation's influential 2007 report, "Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law," forcefully explained, while the Langdell model works extremely well in the first year to teach students the essential building blocks of legal theory, reasoning, and doctrine, it is an incomplete vision of what it should mean to prepare a lawyer for the profession.

There is a need to be met in our service to the public and the profession.  Many law schools from across the spectrum of legal education are responding to these forces with innovations and reforms.  Five years from now, legal education will have changed.  At Washington and Lee, we are proud to be a leader in this national movement.  We believe it is incumbent on our Law School to be more ambitious in our mission and innovative in our approach to education....

Our purpose is to transform law school into a three-year progression from the purely academic study of law to the development of the lawyer's professional role as counselor and advocate in the highest ethical traditions of the profession.

Valuably, Wash & Lee has created this great webpage to help media report on its new curriculum, and I have found these early reports on the school's efforts to start a law school revolution:

March 15, 2008 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 14, 2008

An adventure in distance learning

Earlier this week, I got the chance to give a guest-lecture to the students in Chapman Law School's LLM program in Prosecutorial Science.   The program is only for prosecutors with at least five years of experience.  Most of them take most of the lectures via videoconference from their own offices spread across the state of California.  I found the experience fascinating.  The students appeared on a checkerboard pattern on a pair of large screens at the end of a conference room.  It reminded me of Hollywood Squares-- well, if Hollywood Squares had ever hosted an extended discussion of the death penalty. 

I came away impressed.  The technology allowed me not only to hear the students, but to see them, even to tell if they were paying attention.  Importantly, it allowed for the Chapman program (which seems well-conceived and well-executed) to exist at all.  While distance learning will not replace our core classes, I now see the advantage it offers in reaching into places (like prosecutors' offices) previously inaccessible to us. 

-- Mark Osler

March 14, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 11, 2008

Washington and Lee and the New Third Year


I have to admit-- I love the reforms that have been spurred by the Carnegie Report.  Most recently, and perhaps most significantly, Washington and Lee has presented a bold plan to remake their third year into a program on real lawyering.  Using simulations and other tools, they will address both litigation and transactional work.   For full details, see the impressive web site site W & L has set up to explain the new program.

The Washington and Lee plan seems especially well thought-out, and once implemented may serve as a model for others.

-- Mark Osler

March 11, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Are study groups cheating?

Shockwaves are blowing through the blogosphere over Ryerson University's effort to expulse a student who set up a Facebook study group for his first-year chemistry course. Without specific details as to what the students were sharing and the nature and expectations of how they would do their homework, it's hard to know how close to the line these students were to "cheating." On the one hand, a study group with 147 members looks, on the surface, more like a smuggling ring than a discussion group. On the other, today's online social networks enable large groups of people to affiliate loosely and collaborate on micro projects.

Were the students in this matter engaged in old-fashioned cheating, or is the professor a clueless digital refusnik? Study groups are a mainstay of the law school experience, as are outlines passed down through generations of 1Ls. And law students, as I've argued before, generally need more opportunities to work together. Plus, few classes have homework anyway.

Nonetheless, I'm curious: do you, or your school, have a policy about online study groups and sharing of notes? For example, what's your take on SwapNotes, which also happens to have a Facebook incarnation?

Gene Koo

March 11, 2008 in Serving students | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack