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April 3, 2009

Are law schools playing along as "technology transforms the litigation game"?

This article from the Legal Tech Newsletter, which is headlined "Technology Transforms the Litigation Game," has me wondering and worrying yet again about how well law schools are preparing modern student for modern law practice. Here is how the piece starts:

There's no mistaking that new technologies are transforming the practice of litigation.  Today's litigators take depositions via videoconferencing, scour social networking Web sites for dirt on the opposition and communicate at all hours of the day and night with opposing counsel via BlackBerry.  Technology can overlook the time-tested interpersonal styles that facilitate skills development, but it can also offer a leg up when it comes to seamless client service and flexible schedules, a trademark that is here to stay as more Gen Ys enter the workforce with an innate expectation of using these tools.  The successful litigator must temper the tension between the obvious personal and professional benefits of taking full advantage of new technology and the corresponding loss of face-to-face interaction.

I am inclined to think (and fear) that there is not a single law school (nor perhaps even a single law school class) that has a curriculum specifically designed to help modern law students learn about and reflect on the pros and cons of depositions via videoconferencing, using social networking Web sites, and communicate with clients and opposing counsel via BlackBerry. 

But perhaps I am too quick to assume that law schools are already way behind the modern technology curve.  I would be grateful to hear reports from student or faculty about effective technology programming already appearing in the formal law school curriculum.

Posted by DAB

April 3, 2009 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 1, 2009

Social Media Best Practices for Law Students

Laura Bergus, an enterprising student at Iowa College of Law, is working with her school's administration to "get real" about social media by revising their black-and-white advice ("don't use social media") to be in line with the reality of being a 21st-century, digitally connected law student. In addition to the usual advice on how to set privacy settings, etc, the guide should also include much more affirmative and proactive suggestions on how to construct an online identity for the sake of job-hunting and future professional practice. This emphasis on what positive steps law students should be taking is, IMHO, a much more effective route than simply telling students not to do things, because these good behaviors not only help give students a leg-up but also "crowd out" stupid / harmful behavior.

Laura is currently surveying students to gather background information on how students already use social networking.

I'm very much looking forward to whatever results from this exciting process!

- Gene Koo

April 1, 2009 in Serving students | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

How well do law schools address gendered realities in the profession?

090227_ginsburg Especially because criminal justice law and policy is a very gendered topic (though rarely seen that way outside of a few topics), I frequently try to emphasize gendered perspectives in substantive class discussions.  In these discussions, I often note and sometimes lament that relatively few prosecutors and judges are women.  I also sometimes encourage students to think about whether and how criminal law and policy might be different if the majority of prosecutors and judges were women.

I sense that some of my colleagues (and especially my female colleagues) also ensure that gendered perspectives are brought into classroom discussion.  But I also get a sense that, outside of the classroom, law schools as institutions generally ignore (or even downplay to modern students) the history of gender bias in the legal profession and the (significant?) gendered realities that still impact modern legal power structures.

I raise these points not only because my law school will be hosting the only current female Supreme Court Justice next week, but also because I just came across this interesting research via SSRN. The article, which is titled "From Lawyer to Judge: Advancement, Sex, and Name-Calling," provide some worrisome insights into how lawyers judge one another. Here is the abstract:

This paper provides the first empirical test of the Portia Hypothesis: females with masculine monikers are more successful in legal careers. Utilizing South Carolina microdata, we look for correlation between an individual's advancement to a judgeship and his/her name's masculinity, which we construct from the joint empirical distribution of names and gender in the state's entire population of registered voters. We find robust evidence that nominally masculine females are favored over other females. Hence, our results support the Portia Hypothesis.

My gut instinct tells me that law schools generally do a poor job preparing students for many consequential gendered realities that they will encounter upon heading into the workplace.  But maybe this perspective itself reflects my own gender bias: as a man, I rarely attend or even keep up with the activities of the various gender-oriented student groups and I do not have many opportunities to discuss gender issues when counseling students about professional opportunities.

Posted by DAB

April 1, 2009 in Legal profession realities and developments | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 30, 2009

Mock trial, moot court, and education

From time to time, one of my responsibilities here at Baylor has been to coach mock trial teams.  I have enjoyed the experience, and think it is a worthwhile venture in general.  Certainly, I think it speaks well of our students when they win a national competition (as they did this past weekend at the NTC), and makes public the abilities and work ethic of the school.   My former colleague Kent Stresseman has had remarkable success recently with his moot court teams at Chicago-Kent, and I'm sure the victories there have raised the profile of that law school and helped bring in good students.

Still, I have had heard others criticize mock trial and moot court as an educational experience.  One criticism is that these activities involve so few students.  Others point out that the top schools rarely do well in these competitions.   I think the first group of critics have a point, but schools such as my own have tried to counter that problem by entering more competitions and thus getting more students involved.   As to the second point, I would suspect that the answer to that would vary from school to school, but my sense is that top-ten schools don't put much effort into these competitions.  Should they?

-- Mark Osler

March 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack