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September 16, 2011

The Newest Clinic

This semester, I'm doing two unusual things.

First, though I am not a clinical professor, I am starting a clinic here at St. Thomas.  My colleagues and dean have been totally supportive of this transgression of boundaries, and it makes me wonder why we have them so firmly planted in the first place.  My scholarship is in the field of sentencing, and a clinic allows me to extend that scholarship to the real world in a very direct way. 

Second, the clinic itself is unique.  Along with Doug Berman, Margaret Colgate Love, and others, I began discussions a few years ago, focusing on the President's pardon power and how we might work to restore it to a functioning role in the criminal justice system.  As part of that project, I have begun a federal commutation clinic here, where students  will work with clients to prepare petitions for early release.  It's a great task for students, since there is no judicial proceeding to foul up timing, and the core of the job is discerning and describing a compelling narrative-- the same task that is at the core of most  criminal law jobs.

I'll report back as the project continues.

-- Mark Osler




September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 14, 2011

The Audience for Law School Events

As the new head of the California International Law Center (CILC), I find myself thinking about the audience for the events I now host at the Law School.  The Law School student body at Davis is 600, the student body on the campus at large is more than 30,000.  Yet, I suspect that a non-law student in the audience of a public lecture remains rather rare. Given the fact that many talks are intended for a general audience, rather than for those steeped in legal knowledge, I often feel that the general university community is missing opportunities for edification.

Is this true of law schools around the country? Do some law schools make stronger (or more successful) efforts to promote events to a broader community?  Should law schools work with other units to promote events? Are there good ways to publicize events of interest to the broader community interested in environmental issues, or international legal issues, or technology law issues?  I suspect that the answers will lie (seemingly paradoxically) in both the Internet and in personal contacts.

Anupam Chander

September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 12, 2011

Should law schools teach how the best lawyers and law firms use the internet?

Debates about adequate skills instruction have raged for decades within and outside law school.  Less debated, though no less important, is whether law schools are teaching their students the right kinds of lawyering skills.  My own experience as both a law student and a law professor leads me to believe and fear that law schools too often focus on teaching the next generation of lawyers the most critical skills of the last generation of lawyers.

Those who went to law school around the time I was a student (1990 to 1993) likely recall the debate over whether and how students should be allowed access to computer research sources like Westlaw and Lexis or instead needed to be taught how to "only use the books."  Savvy students (but very few faculty) at the time appreciated that computer-based research skills we ultimately likely to be much more important to our future than book-based skills.  Nevertheless, back then (and still it seems two decades later), commercial providers like West and Lexis supplied much more (and much more effective) training in computer research than did my law school.

This recent article by Robert Algeri in the The National Law Journal, which is headlined "The future of the law firm website: Your website will become bigger, more important — and more focused on the needs of individual attorneys," has me thinking about these realities and prompted the question in the title of this post. Here is how the piece starts:

After a half-century of remarkable stability and steady growth, the legal industry got hit by a ton of bricks called the Great Recession. Several years after the initial shock, it is clear that this downturn wasn't just a momentary blip, but a rather sizable shift in the business landscape. As a result, law firms are being forced to reconsider many aspects of how they do business.

What does all this mean for legal marketing? Lots.      During the past two years, my colleagues and I have studied the Great Recession's effects on legal marketing and law firm Web sites.  Our conclusion is that the law firm Web site is about to undergo a revolution. Specifically, we expect law firm Web sites to:

• Become more valuable....

• Become bigger....

• Focus more on attorneys....

Web sites already play a vital role in law firm business development. Numerous studies show this.  However, I strongly believe that they will become even more important--nearly as important as face-to-face meetings.  Why?  Because face-to-face meetings will happen less and less.

The legal business has traditionally been locally focused, with clients and the firm often located within 25 miles of one another.  That's changing. The Internet and related technologies have made it much more practical to work long distance.  But that's the least of it: Our culture is also changing. 

I could say a lot about the long-standing failure of law schools to help students better understand the business of law and the provision of legal services.  Those broader concerns aside, given the tight legal marketplace and changing legal and technological environments, are law schools uniquely deficient for not helping students better appreciate when and how modern lawyers use the internet?

Posted by DAB

September 12, 2011 in Legal profession realities and developments, Serving students, Teaching -- curriculum, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack