September 27, 2008

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.

And... here are the official notes from the conference for this session.

September 27, 2008 in Conferences, Reform, Teaching -- pedagogy, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 11, 2008

ABA's Outcome Measures and Tenure Proposals

The ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has released two special committee reports that could be influential in reforming legal education in the US, namely, Interim Report of the Outcome Measures Committee and Report of the Special Committee on Security of Position. Details on Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

June 11, 2008 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 05, 2008

Another New Legal Education Reform Blog

Hosted by the Elon University Law School, the Center for Engaged Learning in the Law Blog "is intended to contribute to the discourse on teaching and learning in law, from the inspirational to the whimsical, to the mechanical. It includes the varying perspectives of teachers, administrators, learners and practicioners." See our earlier Law Librarian Blog posts covering this growing body of resourses:

-- Joe Hodnicki

March 5, 2008 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 09, 2008

New Destinations in the Blogosphere's Legal Education Reform Space

The Best Practices for Legal Education Blog has joined Law School Innovation in the blogosphere's U.S. legal education reform space. See also the UK's Transforming Initiative. The Best Practices and Transforming Initiative web destinations are extensions of recent legal education reform publications. Details at Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

January 9, 2008 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 07, 2008

The Complete Lawyer on Law School Reform

The Complete Lawyer has published a series of articles on law school reform. Details and links on Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

January 7, 2008 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 05, 2008

Raw outline of "Rethinking Legal Education For The 21st Century"

Below are the "raw" notes I took in the AALS Friday afternoon plenary session, "Rethinking Legal Education for the 21st Century" featuring Edward L. Rubin (Vanderbilt University Law School), Vicki C. Jackson (Georgetown University Law Center), Robert Mac Crate, Esq. (Senior Counsel, Sullivan and Cromwell), Martha L. Minow (Harvard Law School), Suellyn Scarnecchia (University of New Mexico School of Law), William M. Sullivan (Senior Scholar The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), Judith W. Wegner (University of North Carolina School of Law).

Update: MP3 recording of this session now available.

[The panel began with Bill Sullivan outlining the Carnegie Foundation's Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law.]

Bill Sullivan (Carnegie Foundation)

Prof ed's common goal as it moved into university: a threefold apprenticeship:

  • knowledge
  • competence for practice
  • Identity + prof. purpose

Experiential learning

  • Mastery
  • Judgment

AALS will be collecting best practices at

Ed Rubin (Vanderbilt)

Law schools teach all three years at same level of sophistication. Vanderbilt now offers areas concentration, incrementing analytical sophistication, guided by faculty

Vicki Jackson (Georgetown)

  1. Globalization - an opportunity to rethink our fields

  2. Expanding learning experiences.How we teach is what we teach -- Problem-solving, reflective

    • Social science about learning
    • Critiques about legal education
    • [Illegible -- help?]
  3. Law + Legal systems to Justice / Fairness. "Week 1" (of 2nd semester)

    • Intro to realistic, complex multiunit problem
    • Problem-based experiential setting
      • Assigned + act out roles
      • Collaboratively w/ role group
    • Builds on 1st-year content


ABA 25 years ago urged reassessment together

Martha Minow (Harvard)

theme: "choice"

Once it became clear that we were serious, there was little disagreement (but enormous resistance). There were two contradictory objections to each idea:

  • "We've tried that before."
  • "We've never tried that before."

Autonomy of prof. in the classroom leads to need to learn to play well together

  1. "What do students need now?" not "How did I learn law.” Student as a person on a map
  2. Some of mastery, not labeled w/ doctrine. Rather, problem-solving, strategy
  3. Ethics + Role: taking agency
  4. Institutional design change: choice

How change happened at Harvard:

  • Leadership: Dean on committee, attend every one
  • Process, not report
  • Ambition: pursue something faculty is afraid of: results not guaranteed

Exceed existing constraints

  • Look outside: medical, business, policy
  • More process: agreement before the vote
  • It's not over: ongoing, not episodic

Suellen Scarnecchia (University of New Mexico School of Law)

Clinical faculty at NM are tenured [applause]

Do we have the right faculty? Yes: we can integrate the 3 apprenticeships with current personnel. But what stops us?

  • History: clinical and legal writing faculty fought to get in
  • Bias about each other (mutual between faculty and clinical)

We need

  • respect
  • collaboration


  1. A reason to change (Purpose)

    • We're smart
    • Self actualization (letting the energy out)
    • Conscience + stewardship: build a better society
  2. Multiple dimensions of teaching

    • Beyond intellectual knowledge: new epistemology. We construct knowledge in context.
    • Beyond content
  3. It's About learning

    • Students learn better that way
      • - Values / motivation
      • - Experiential:learn by doing
    • Progression
    • Advising: career choices, values, courses
  4. It's About Learning

    • Take assessment seriously
    • Bifurcate bar exam: 1st year analytics


What are the challenges in next 20-30 years

Talk about Social Justice + Ethics in the curriculum

Students as subjects/ agents

Casebooks as a barrier to innovation: publishers not moving quickly enough?

January 5, 2008 in Conferences, Deans and innovations, Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 27, 2007

Teaching Students to Think Like 1870s Lawyers

When we talk about law school "innovation," we're really talking about law school reform. And isn't it about time? Law schools have succeeded in teaching students to think like lawyers: "1870s lawyers," said Edward L. Rubin, dean of Vanderbilt University Law School, in the Chronicle of Higher Education's Leading Legal Educators Call for a Shakeup in How the Law Is Taught (sub. required).

Hat tip to TaxProf Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

December 27, 2007 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 07, 2007

Law School Reform and the Carnegie Report

Bill Henderson raises concerns about whether Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (2007)("Carnegie Report") can be a significant catalyst for law school reform because the Carnegie Report fails to offer (1) "a careful assessment of the institutional incentives that have created and perpetuate the current system" and (2) "creative strategies for breaking down or subverting those institutional forces in a way that produces a greater good," both, in his opinion, minimum requirements for systemic reform of legal education. Read more about it at Empirical Legal Studies.

Hat tip to Julie Jones, Law Librarian Blog-- Joe Hodnicki

December 7, 2007 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 16, 2007

Does U.S. News Measure What Law Students Care About?

According to Michelle Weyenberg in Law School Rankings at Math's Mercy, National Jurist (November 2007), the answer is "no." Of concern to students but missing from the USNWR rankings are such factors as

These certainly are the sorts of concerns one regularly hears from law school students but I'm not sure the quality of teaching can be measure unless a standardized teacher evaluation is implemented by the ABA/AALS but the other factors can be quantified.

In a comment to Paul Caron's TaxProf Blog post about this article, Michael Livingston questions the assumption that law students are in a good position to evaluate the quality of law schools. I think the point is that law student opinion of their schools is not a factor included in USNWR. Why not include a student review component along with the peer review and bench and bar review components? [JH]

Also posted on Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

November 16, 2007 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 26, 2007

Searching for Leaders in the Legal Academy

When I was a law firm librarian, I found a commonality of purpose that is not but should be self-evident in the legal academy. That purpose was to represent the client to the best of the firm's ability and to do whatever was necessary to achieve that result. It's priority was higher than doling out partner compensation, allocating offices, getting the best secretary, having the fastest computer or the largest computer monitor, worrying about how the person in the next office obtained colored paper clips, etc. There was a vested interest in honesty to the common cause.

In the legal academy, not necessarily so. The academic law library is usually the one place that has a continuing mandate to strive to meet the penultimate objective of law schools within its mission statement by providing resources and services to students, faculty, alum, and the general public to the best of the law library's ability. Perhaps that's why only two law school officers are identified by title in accreditation standards: the dean and the law library director. One would hope law school deans also share this vision but that is not a given. One would hope faculty members also hold fast to the commitment to the make the necessary sacrifices for this shared vision to be achieved, but that too is not a given.

So I ask you, if you know of a law school administrator or faculty member whose actions demonstrate a belief that law schools have a common purpose that transcends the pettiness of academic politics, share that with the readers of this blog by commenting to this post.

What are we looking for? Examples of rational, honest behavior that makes a difference without causing "trouble." We're looking for those people in the legal academy whose thoughts and actions are inclusively logical because they work, appropriate to the situation, and morally true to the facts. Do they (still) exist?

Why is this so important? The buzz in the literature about law education these last several months is the need for change. But can innovation come about without leaders who possess the characteristics I have identified? -- Joe Hodnicki

July 26, 2007 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2007

If money were no object....

The news of Columbia University receiving a $400 million gift has me dreaming about what sort of law school reforms I would propose if money were no object.  My mind races with possible teaching, scholarship and service innovations that only a lot of money could help make happen (e.g., hiring law firm partners and associates to teach certain lawyering courses; creating massive legal databases to facilitate and foster empirical work; funding greater faculty involvement in major litigation in their fields of expertise).

Dear reader, how about dreaming along with me: what what sort of law school reforms would you propose if money were no object?

posted by DAB

April 11, 2007 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 03, 2007

USN&WR Law School Diversity Index Fundamentally Flawed

While accounting for racial and ethnic diversity, the USN&W diversity index fails to account for law students with disabilities. Isn't it about time that we recognize that diversity includes our students with special needs? I plan of developing this idea and would appreciate hearing your opinion in comments to this post or at Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

April 3, 2007 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2007

Carnegie, why I have hope that change can happen

I sense, hovering around many of our discussions here, a certain pessimism about law schools' ability to change and cynicism about their desire to. Mark broached the topic directly when he asked: "Given that faculties are given to replicate themselves, is there any reason to think that the Carnegie Report will make a difference where Frank [of Yale Law and the New School] failed?" Likewise, Doug more recently asked apropos to the same topic: "1. How many law professors who are not deans will read this report? 2. How many law students will embrace and encourage the report's suggestions and will they be willing to 'vote with their feet' as some law schools innovate?"

¿Sí, Se Puede? Law school reformers can learn from other movements.

My response to these questions emerge from my perspective as a former consumer of and current adjunct to law school, which puts me in a different position than Mark and Doug. I do not know what obstacles you face in trying to lead change and turn nice ideas like the Carnegie study into solid action. I glean from your comments that there are considerable structural and institutional barriers that include cultural preferences and incentives that lean against reform. I would love to read more analysis of these challenges.

I would also love to read more about avenues for change. It heartens me that there is a community right here committed to change. Do we share a common vision of what must happen? Who else agrees? Whom must we convince?

I commend this short essay to would-be reformers: Divided No More: A movement approach to educational reform. It's directed at

...faculty [who] have realized that even if teaching is a back-of-the-bus thing for their institutions, it is a front-of-the-bus thing for them. They have realized that a passion for teaching was what animated their decision to enter the academy, and they do not want to lose the primal energy of their professional lives. They have realized that they care deeply about the lives of their students, and they do not want to abandon the young. They have realized that teaching is an enterprise in which they have a heavy investment of personal identity and meaning–and they have decided to reinvest their lives, even if they do not receive dividends from their colleges or from their colleagues."

Does this passage describe you? Is it what motivates you to participate in a blog called "Law School Innovation"?

If so, then let's talk about the world as we'd like to see it. Maybe we can't change all law schools - not yet. But I'm convinced there are many law professors who would like to see a change. Let's talk about how we can support each other to do so.

The fact that the Carnegie Foundation gave us a map for reform but no vehicle is not cause for despair. It's people, not foundations, who make change happen.

March 30, 2007 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack