September 24, 2007

Does It Matter What Courses You Take for Bar Passage?

A new study finds that "bar courses" in law school — law school courses that cover subject matter tested on the bar exam — do not notably improve student's chances of passing the bar (except for those in the third quartile, by law school GPA).  The study, by Douglas Rush and Hisako Matsuo, is here.  Discussion at the NY Times and WSJ blogs.

Anupam Chander

Addition by DAB: Members of my faculty have done internal research that reached the same basic conclusion.  However, I have heard that some school have developed courses that are truly a form of bar prep by teaching test-taking techniques and content specifically tailored to help at-risk students improve their chances of passing the bar.

I would be interesting in hearing from faculty or students who know more about the development and success of these new and true bar courses.

September 24, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 10, 2007

Should law schools move away from a semester system?

Among many interesting pieces in a focus on legal education in the latest issues of  The Complete Lawyer is this interview with Larry Kramer, Dean of the Stanford Law School.  And, among interesting tidbits in the interview is this discussion by Dean Kramer of a recent scheduling innovation at SLS:

Stanford is [moving to] a quarter rather than a semester system. The semester is a big, clunky unit and so it leaves students with only a limited number of course opportunities. By breaking the academic year into quarters, you increase the number of course opportunities by 50%.  The courses are a little shorter, of course, but that diminution is more than made up for by the increased opportunities. It allows students to go outside of the law school and study other disciplines without sacrificing the breadth of their legal education. It allows them to create a program for themselves that is broad or deep or a good mix of both.

I believe that at least one other top school does not follow the tradition semester format: the University of Chicago has its law school year divided into three trimesters.  Surely a few other schools also have some novel schedules (e.g., I still remember fondly a 4-week winter course at Harvard Law School), but my sense is that the vast majority of law school adhere to the tradition semester norm.

I would be very eager to hear from teachers (or students) with experiences in both types of systems as to whether Dean Kramer is on to something by moving Stanford Law School toward quarters.  Should the start of serious law school innovation begin with a move away from traditional semesters?

Posted by DAB

September 10, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 25, 2007

Old School, New School

In Re-engineering the J.D. (ABA Journal), Jill Schachner Chanen reports on the struggles the legal academy is having creating a relevant law school curriculum. What is a law school? A trade school, a professional school, a graduate school...

From the article:

[M]any law schools are continuing to struggle with what type of change is most meaningful for their own unique mission, says Ohio State University law professor Douglas A. Berman. Berman writes about curricular reform and related issues for law schools, their faculties and administrators on his blog, Law School Innovation.

"Law schools historically have been trade schools, where students learn the trade of becoming a lawyer," Berman says. "Justifiably, over time, that became more of a negative image and then law schools became more of a professional school. That may have been more of a perfect balance—not just trying to teach you the nuts and bolts of the trade but also teaching you to appreciate the pros and cons of the profession. Now we are viewing law school more as a graduate school, trying to give students more of an advanced and sophisticated appreciation of law’s function in society."

Berman believes this move away from the realities of practice is misguided. He says the better approach is a combination of trade school, graduate school and professional school with "a few tweaks."

He is joined in his thinking by the newest generation of deans, most of whom now come into the academy with some experience practicing law.

-- Joe Hodnicki

July 25, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2007

Keeping Courses Current: a call for your input

CALI is developing a system to enable law professors to assemble course packs to supplement (or replace) casebooks. Dubbed eLangdell, the project has several goals: simplify the creation process for teachers, lower costs for students, and establish a commons where teachers can share teaching resources. (Students will be able to use these materials online, or print them at a micropress or on their own.)

I'm soliciting feedback from professors on how to make this resource as valuable as possible, and would love your thoughts on any of the questions below. (Submit them as comments to this post).

  1. What aspects of assembling a coursepack are particularly annoying, unpleasant, or impossible?
  2. What portion of the resources you use are protected by copyright and not available under fair use? Is there a good process of securing permissions? (cf. The Digital Learning Challenge: Obstacles to Educational Uses of Copyrighted Material in the Digital Age)
  3. Have you ever peeked at the syllabus of someone else teaching a similar course as you, and if so, what's proven most useful? Into whose syllabus would you love to peek?
  4. What MUST eLangdell be able to do before you would consider using it?

(Consider this a "proactive" law school innovation post!)

- Gene Koo

July 9, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 21, 2007

What's different about the curriculum at evangelical law schools?

Though Jeralyn at TalkLeft is troubled by the rise of evangelical law schools discussed in this Chicago Tribune article, I am intrigued by this phenomenon.  Specifically, befitting this blog, I wonder whether and how these law school bring innovate techniques into the curriculum as part of their distinctive educational missions.

Though I suppose I could look this up, I wonder if readers know whether there are unique courses or programs at evangelical law schools.  I am often intrigued by the lack of innovation in traditional law school curriculum, and I would suspect that these new law school might look for new ways to train new lawyers.  I especially wonder if there is any evidence that unique classes or teaching techniques at these law schools might produce unique qualities and talents in lawyers.

Posted by DAB

May 21, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 15, 2007

presentation: New Skills & New Learning for Tomorrow's Lawyers

As you all know from earlier posts, I spent the autumn researching legal technology and education, examining how a changing practice environment affects what, and how, law schools should teach. The Berkman Center for Internet & Society, with LexisNexis, published the results as New Skills, New Learning: Legal Education & the Promise of Technology.

I will be presenting these findings and facilitating discussion about what legal educators (and others) can do to respond to emerging challenges at an upcoming Berkman Center luncheon:

Tuesday, May 22
23 Everett St, Cambridge MA
Second Life

Your participation as a law school innovator would be very welcome. Please RSVP if you can attend. Hope to see you next week!

- Gene Koo

May 15, 2007 in Announcements, Teaching -- curriculum, Teaching -- pedagogy, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 04, 2007

How Cross-Disciplinary Training May Improve the Quality of Legal Education

Seth Freeman has deposited Bridging the Gaps: How Cross-Disciplinary Training With MBAs Can Improve Professional Education, Prepare Students for Private Practice, and Enhance University Life in SSRN. Here's the abstract:

What can law schools do to address the criticisms in the Carnegie Foundation's January 2007 report on legal education? That report found that law schools are not teaching students how to be competent lawyers. One particularly promising answer is cross-disciplinary training with MBAs, which leading law schools such as NYU, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard have embraced in recent years. In this article, I explore the value of such courses, and discuss a cross-disciplinary course that I successfully debuted in the Fall of 2006 at NYU entitled, "Negotiating Complex Transactions with Executives and Lawyers." More generally, I argue that cross-disciplinary courses offer special advantages for students, schools, universities, and employers, and deserve much more emphasis in professional training and higher education.

-- Joe Hodnicki

May 4, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2007

The Carnegie Study: impressions and responses?


The Carnegie study's out, and I'm curious about your reactions to it: Does it capture the most important issues facing legal education today? Do you and your students agree with its conclusions and recommendations? What doesn't jibe?

More importantly, what happens next: What changes will come about as a result of this report? What can we, in our different roles, do to advance the parts of the study we feel are true and compelling?

- Gene Koo

March 27, 2007 in Books, Teaching -- curriculum, Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 27, 2007

The 80-year-old debate

The Carnegie Report's focus on skills training is intriguing, as are the follow-ups by Gene and others.

However, this debate has been continuing, with various amounts of ardor, for decades.  As far back as the 1920's & 30's, critics of the Harvard case law method such as Jerome Frank (of Yale Law and the New School) lobbied for a law-school curriculum that would closely replicate the clinical model found in medical schools, with an emphasis on real-life apprenticeship and hands-on learning.  Frank argued that law teachers should have experience in legal practice, and should train students in practice skills in real and simulated settings.

Obviously, previous reform attempts have failed, as the elite schools have (with some notable exceptions) chosen to continue to focus on other things.  This framework becomes more entrenched as Ph.D. holders are favored over lawyers with practice experience for teaching positions.  Given that faculties are given to replicate themselves, is there any reason to think that the Carnegie Report will make a difference where Frank failed?

-- Mark Osler

February 27, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 23, 2007

Skills education in law school: why it matters right now

The Carnegie study's argument that law schools need to include more skills- and values-oriented education couldn't come at a better time. I would hazard that the 19th-century model of apprenticeship was lousy to begin with -- ad hoc, haphazard and unaccountable -- but evidence is mounting that in this century, the system has completely broken down:

(four breakdowns after the jump)

  1. Small- and mid-sized firms overwhelmingly avoid hiring new graduates to avoid training costs, according to Pace Law School's recent survey. Only 9% of firms of 51-100 attorneys, and 7% of firms under 50 attorneys, fill their recruitment needs primarily by hiring law school graduates.  The top reason for filling positions with experienced attorneys was “Eliminate the need for training” (45%).
  2. Sophisticated clients are refusing to pay for associate training, according to several lawyers I've interviewed. Historically, law practices have relied on apprenticeships that often include having associates attend client meetings. But the growing sophistication of in-house counsel has led to the curtailment of these opportunities, or at least clients' underwriting of them.
  3. Consequently, big firms are bringing training in-house. Yet, according to a survey the Berkman Center recently conducted with LexisNexis, only 36% of our respondents reported attending a "boot camp;" of those, half felt it was "somewhat useful," and another 29% rated it "neutral." More worrying than the mediocre quality of these trainings is the possibility that, by "insourcing" all of these functions, the big firms will no longer see it in their financial interest to underwrite the major CLE efforts, denuding the larger market of considerable talent and resources.
  4. Judges are also trending towards hiring clerks with at least one year of experience, according to some observers.

The picture I end up seeing is one in which everyone -- law schools, law practices, judges -- are passing the hot potato of training around. No one wants it except the big firms who can afford it. And those firms view such training primarily as a recruiting and retention tool.

Seen this way, law schools are the only locus of systemic, across-the-board training and preparation for practice. Relying on the private bar is too risky, runs counter to the bar's current financial interests, and most of all, leaves too much of what the Carnegie study identifies as the values aspect of lawyering to the private market.

And yet, in our survey of practicing attorneys, when we asked who would best be able to provide the skills that these attorneys felt they were missing, a mere 14% identified law schools. This is a serious credibility gap, but not an insurmountable one. In the long run, in fact, I believe that law schools ought to be the most credible among the possible trainers, or at least have an important role to play in building a credible training infrastructure, but I will save that for another post.

- Gene Koo

February 23, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

Provocative innovative suggestion for the 3L year

Mike over at Crime & Federalism has this interesting post entitled "Anti-Intellectualism and the Third Year of Law School."  The post ends with these provocative paragraphs:

So here's my proposal: Let's abolish the third year of law school and, in its place, require one year of philosophical study.  Let's set aside Marbury and pick up a Critique of Pure Reason. Let's supplement our our discussions of mens rea with Wittenstein's bettle.  Can we, a new law student might ask, ever know the contents of some else's mind? 

Since law professors claim they are training thinkers, not lawyers, there should be no objection to this proposal.  Of course, philosophy professors — rather than law professors — would be teaching these courses.  Which makes me wonder... Does the third year of law school exist for the edification of students, or for the remuneration of law professors and law schools?

Some related curriculum posts:

February 12, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 08, 2007

Seeking resources on modern curricular realities

As detailed in posts linked below, I am very interested in the structure and evolution of the law school curriculum.  Yesterday, my interest found expression at a faculty meeting where I suggested a "curriculum retreat" so our faculty could have a collective discussion about the successes and challenges of the past, present and expected future of OSU's standard curriculum.

Relatedly, given recent reforms at Harvard and Stanford and elsewhere, I am wondering if there already exists a useful summary/analysis of modern curricular realities at most law schools.  I suspect the ABA and the AALS might have a summary/analysis of current curricular norms and trends, but I am not quite sure where to look for such materials.  Also, I suspect that faculty members or administrators at schools considering reforms might have some internal summary/analysis.  I would be grateful for anyone willing to share this kind of work.

Some related curriculum posts:

February 8, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 07, 2007

Detroit Mercy School of Law Launches Law Firm Program

The National Law Journal is reporting that the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law launched its pilot Law Firm Program, a series of courses that simulates big-firm lawyering, this semester and has 18 students enrolled. Starting next year, it will require all of its 180 third-year students to complete at least four credits in the program. Students will be able to take up to 26 credits of the program's courses, which use the same numeric grading system as in most of the school's other courses. Cross-posted on Law Librarian Blog. Joe Hodnicki

February 7, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 06, 2007

New article on "Pedagogy of Innocence"

I just noticed via SSRN this new paper by Keith Findley that's forthcoming in the Clinical Law Review. It's entitled "The Pedagogy of Innocence: Reflection on the Role of Innocence Projects in Clinical Legal Education," and here is the abstract:

The service and policy missions of innocence projects have received considerable scholarly attention.  Relatively little, however, has been written about the pedagogical mission of innocence projects as law school clinical programs.  This article examines the pedagogical challenges and opportunities presented by clinical programs that investigate and litigate large, complex innocence cases. First, the article analyzes what innocence projects can and should teach law students, including lessons about facts and investigation skills; about the need for thoroughness and skepticism, and what that means in practice; about essential values of the profession, and about the risk that the narrow focus on representing only the innocent might convey unintended messages about the value of legal representation to all criminal defendants; about ethics; about doctrine and a critical perspective of legal institutions; and, finally, about judgment. Second, the article considers how innocence projects might meet those educational objectives. Among other things, the article probes how innocence projects - and other similar large-case clinical programs - can manage the traditional tensions between the goal of nondirective student supervision, including the need to allow students to gain ownership of their cases, and the responsibility of ensuring quality representation to the clients in these complex cases, in which so much is at stake.

Some related posts on clinics and clinical education:

Posted by DAB

February 6, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 16, 2007

Globalizing the Law School Curriculum

On August 3rd and 4th of 2005, the Pacific McGeorge Center for Global Business and Development sponsored a workshop at Squaw Valley, California near Lake Tahoe. At this workshop, professors from thirty-one law schools in the United States and Canada met to discuss how to introduce international, transnational and comparative law issues into the core curriculum. This Report (PDF, 64 pp), published at 19 Pac. McGeorge Global Bus. & Dev. L.J. 267 (2006), provides a summary of those discussions.  Joe Hodnicki

January 16, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 10, 2007

Thinking Like Law Librarians: Innovation in Teaching Legal Research

At Law Librarian Blog, I posted a list of IMHO Awards that covered a number of 2006 developments I thought worthy of highlighting, some good, some not. One positive development highlighted there is very forward-looking, namely NCBE's consideration of developing a legal research component for bar exams. I'm sure many readers wonder how legal research skills can be tested in bar exams, but they can be if legal research is taught by emphasizing principles of legal research in a format-neutral context. I know, some are wondering about the existence of legal research principles; I'm here to say they do exist.

When I was a large law firm librarian, the bane of my existence was teaching young associates how to perform legal research. Most of the young associates I worked with graduated in the ten percent of the top ten law schools. They simply did not learn effective legal research in law school; most still don't.

Access Points & Routes. Back in the mid-80's, Virginia Thomas, currently Director, Law Library and Information Technology at the University of Cincinnati Law Library but then Documents/Reference Librarian at IIT/Chicago-Kent College of Law, and I, then a Research Librarian at Seyfarth, Shaw (Chicago), and occasional guest lecturer on labor law research for the graduate human resources program at Loyola University (Chicago)  developed a novel teaching approach that focused on access points and routes using bibliographic analysis of document types within the context of the structure of legal literature. This teaching approach applied, and still applies, regardless of publishing format and the on-site availability of legal resources. It also overcomes one of the most serious problems faced by legal research instructors, namely, trying to teach legal research  to students who know so little substantive law. Alas, we both were working stiffs who did not have time to publish but it is rewarding to see that some law librarians have published their insights into similar approaches to teaching legal research. See, for example, J.D.S. Armstrong & Christopher A. Knott, Where the Law Is: An Introduction to Advanced Legal Research (2d ed, 2006).

Anti-Toolbox Approach to Legal Research. At the time, Virginia and I characterized this approach as an anti-toolbox approach to teaching legal research. By that we meant to criticize the still all too common practice of trying to teach legal research by just explaining what each research tool did; "this is a digest, this is a case name index. this is an online research service..." Unfortunately the toolbox method still remains the prevalent approach to teaching legal research, performed perhaps more so by non-librarian legal research and writing instructors, but also still performed by law librarians, even in many elective advanced legal research courses.

Teaching Legal Research Tomorrow. How will legal research be taught if legal research becomes a bar exam component? This is the focus of an upcoming conference at the University of Texas Tarlton Law Library, one I hope all interested parties attend, not just law librarians. Of course I believe the approach Virginia Thomas and I use is one such way, but, relative to law school curricular changes, I also hope serious consideration will be given to requiring a legal research course separate and distinct from traditional legal research and writing courses.

It's time for the legal academy to recognize that legal research and writing classes do a very poor job at teaching legal research; the noise of the writing component drowns out the legal research message and, unfortunately that message is almost universally based, perhaps necessarily so, on a toolbox approach to teaching legal research.

Must law librarians teach the legal research course I am recommending for your consideration? Absolutely not. Anyone can teach legal research following the approach Virginia Thomas and I have used for years now. Come to the Tarlton conference on Oct. 18-20, 2007 [brochure] to contribute to improving the instruction of legal research in law schools.

Ultimately we must teach law students to "think like law librarians" but law librarians are not the only ones who already approach research thinking this way. Joe Hodnicki

January 10, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 21, 2006

What a truly innovative 1L year would look like

Thanks to this post at PrawfsBlawg, I checked out Thomas Morgan's forthcoming article on "Educating Lawyers for the Future of the Legal Profession."  The piece can be accessed at this SSRN link, and it includes lots and lots of thought-provoking insights.  Since I have long been suspect of all law schools' seemingly uniform commitment to a seemingly antiquated 1L course package, I was especially drawn to Morgan's vision of what a truly modern 1L curriculum might look like.  Here's his proposed 1L courses to replace the classics of Contracts, Torts, Civ Pro, Crim Law and Property:

  1. The Power to Make Law
  2. Sources of Legal Rights
  3. Enforcement of Agreements
  4. Redress of Wrongs
  5. Resolution of Disputes
  6. Internationalization of Practice
  7. Legal Analysis & Expression
  8. Professional Roles & Values

You will have to go check out the article for descriptions of what each of these courses would cover.

Some related posts:

Posted by DAB

December 21, 2006 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 20, 2006

American University Washington College of Law Introduces Electives for First-Year Law Students

American University Washington College of Law will implement a plan to offer 1Ls electives for the Spring 2007 semester. According to the College's press release "in order to make room for an elective, WCL’s faculty transformed the Civil Procedure and Property courses from two-semester, five-credit courses into one-semester, four-credit courses. This frees up space for students to take an elective in the spring semester of their first year. The new electives have been developed specifically for first-year students, and will include, among others, a survey of International Law; a course on the regulatory state; an introduction to Intellectual Property Law; a course in litigating International Law cases in the United States; and a course in Trial Advocacy principles and techniques."  -- Joe Hodnicki

December 20, 2006 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 02, 2006

Innovating the third-year: no standard classes?

Completely eliminating the third year of law school is one common, radical reform suggestion (often heard from current students and recent grads).  But it is not likely to ever get taken seriously: too much tradition and money supports the three-year law program to permit an industry-wide shift.   Consequently, anyone underwhelmed by the 3L experience ought to focus on innovation, rather than elimination.

Here's my idea: What if schools decreed that, after the 2L year, students could not earn any credits for graduation in standard lecture/exam law courses?  Instead, to finish up law school, 3L students would have to earn credits through non-standard courses like clinics, seminars, externships, classes in other departments, co-curricular activities, independent study, etc.  (A less ambitious, but still radical, approach would be to say that only half of 3L credits could be earned through standard lecture/exam law courses.)

Two key points drive this idea:

  1. Most students have little desire or reason to be very engaged in standard law classes as a 3L: two prior years have removed all novelty from the teaching format; future employment may already be secured; 3Ls are acutely aware of the disconnect between standard classwork and practice skills.
  2. Most law schools and professors will only develop and teach non-standard courses if students demand them: standard classes are relatively easy and fun to teach (especially if taught before); they are economical because many dozens of students can be served by one faculty member.

By requiring students to earn many or all 3L credits through non-traditional means, students would be forced to figure out what non-standard law school activities they would find interesting and rewarding as they finish up.  And law professors, in turn, would likely be pushed to develop more non-traditional courses and activities in order to serve student demands for a range of 3L options.

Posted by DAB (and cross-posted at MoneyLaw).

December 2, 2006 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 01, 2006

Do you need funny glasses for a "3D" JD?

As Joe notes, Stanford Law School here announces a "new model" for legal education which it is calling a "3D" JD:

Stanford Law School today announced changes that are transforming the JD into a three-dimensional degree program that combines the study of other disciplines with team-oriented, problem-solving techniques and expanded clinical training that enables students to represent clients and litigate cases — before they graduate.  Stanford's innovation is being driven by the new demands on modern lawyers, which are fundamentally different from those present when the law school curriculum was formed.

Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer said the pedagogical changes the school is spearheading are focused on the second and third year curriculum. He hopes Stanford's reform — which began last year and should be fully implemented by 2009 — will provide a model for legal education generally.

The rest of the official announcement makes for an interesting read, but there really is not a lot of "there there."  Orin Kerr has this take:

I confess it's not entirely clear to me what it means. (A three-dimensional program?  Who knew that Stanford has been offering a mere two-dimensional curriculum all this time?).  As best I can tell, the real reform here is to decrease the number of required "law" courses in the curriculum so that students can take more courses outside of the law school. 

Similarly, Anthony Ciolli here asserts that "Stanford is pretty much copying the Penn Law School curriculum verbatim and passing it off as 'innovative.'"  Commentors at the WSJ Law Blog are likewise underwhelmed.

Whatever one's view on the merits, all this "reform" at leading law schools has Matt Bodie asking here in a great post whether we are now in "A New Era of Law School Innovation?"   To tweak one of my favorite lines from the movie Airplane, looks like we picked a good time to start this blog.

Some related posts:

Posted by DAB

December 1, 2006 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack