September 10, 2011

Interesting comments from Dean Chemerinsky on his "Ideal Law School for the 21st Century"

I just came across this article on SSRN titled "The Ideal Law School for the 21st Century."  The piece is authored by Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the new UC Irvine law school, and it describes his experiences starting the school and his "vision" for UCI Law School.   Here is one passage discussing this vision I found especially blog-worthy:

I felt from the outset that if we simply replicated other law schools we will have failed. There is not a need for another law school like all of the others that already exist.  I felt from the outset that if we simply replicated other law schools we will have failed.  There is not a need for another law school like all of the others that already exist.

My central vision is that I want us to do the best possible job of preparing students for the practice of law at the highest levels of the profession.  I certainly did not graduate from law school ready to practice law. On my first day at my first job after graduating from law school, as a trial attorney at the United States Department of Justice, my supervising lawyer told me that an answer to a particular question could be found in the local rules of the federal district court.  I did not know that there were local rules of the federal district.

Law schools do many things well, including teaching students skills such as the ability to read cases and construct legal arguments, and instructing students on the doctrines in many areas of law. But as many reports have noted, law schools are far less successful in preparing students for the practice of law.There are many reasons for this.  I believe that elite law schools have long eschewed this as a primary objective.  Long ago, they adopted the mantra that they teach students to think like lawyers and leave practical training for after graduation.

Also, the nature of most law school classes, a single instructor in front of a large number of students, does not lend itself to training in skills.  This format of instruction works for conveying information, but skills cannot be learned in this way.  No one would learn how to be a tennis player or a play a musical instrument by exclusively or primarily sitting in a classroom; that is true of any skill.  More subtly, having a single instructor in front of a large number of students limits most evaluations in law school to the grade from a single final examination.  No skills are taught by this experience; there is not even good instruction on the skill of taking law school exams because generally students receive no feedback other than a grade about their performance.

I also fear that the lack of skills training in most law schools is, in part, because most law school faculty are not equipped or oriented towards doing this.  The trend over the last couple of decades, especially in elite schools, is to hire individuals with Ph.D.s, but with no practice experience.  Even those who have practiced before going into teaching generally have done so for only a very short time.  I have observed that very few faculty at elite law schools are actively engaged in the practice of law.  My impression is that this has decreased over the thirty years that I have been an academic, partially because publication and other demands have increased and partially because those being hired are less oriented towards doing so.

Posted by DAB

September 10, 2011 in Teaching -- new courses, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2009

Are there any must-reads (beyond Heller) for my Second Amendment Seminar?

Regular readers of my home blog know I am interested in the intersection of the Second Amendment and the criminal justice system in the wake of Heller.  My interest is finding expression this coming fall semester — which starts tomorrow(!) at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law — through the teaching of a Second Amendment Seminar.

Though I am going to have students help shape the direction and content of the seminar, I want to make sure I cover modern Second Amendment essentials.  But, as I assembled a reading list, I started thinking that the only essential read in the modern corpus is just the Supreme Court's decision in Heller

Of course, there are lots of cases and lots and lots and lots of commentary — both pre-Heller and post-Heller — discussing the Second Amendment.  I plan to cover key post-Heller issues like incorporation and standards-of-review in the seminar, and I will have students read cases and commentaries on these and other topics.  But I am not sure if anything qualifies as a true must-read for discussing and debating the modern Second Amendment other than Heller itself.

Perhaps readers have a different view, and I would be grateful for any input on the topic in the comments.

Cross-posted at SL&P (by DAB)

August 16, 2009 in Teaching -- new courses | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 27, 2008

The Amicus Class

Reading what Professors Doug Berman (here) and Mark Osler (here) wrote on doing amici briefs reminded me of how I solved one of the "cons" to this experience mentioned by Doug. 

Writing amici briefs are truly a rewarding personal experience.  They allow you to remain connected with the practice and also to have a voice in pending litigation. But Doug was concerned about the time drain this experience would have, and he mentions one group that might be slighted -- students.

While teaching at Georgia State University College of Law, I solved this last problem by offering a course that focused on writing amici briefs.  The class had a limited number of students - 12, and was a hands-on experience class running similar to an in-house clinic.

There were three parts to the class. In the introductory part of the class we studied the role of amici briefs and the rules related to filing these briefs. The second part of the course required each student to write a mock amici brief on a case that they believed the Supreme Court might take that term.  It was necessary for them to examine the docket, study the issues in forthcoming decisions, and find one case likely to be selected.  The case needed to interest them and also provide an issue that would not be the central issue presented by the parties, or allowed them to present the issue in a new direction.  Clearly this was not an easy task. 

The final part of the course was its highlight. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)  allowed me to pick from one of their cases needing amici briefs.  Our class selected our Supreme Court case, and also selected an 11th Circuit case and we wrote the amici briefs - dividing the class into two groups to facilitate this process. 

This was an incredibly rewarding class for me, and the students raved about it. It allowed for collaborative work, allowed for teaching "skills and values,"  and focused on not only substance and procedure in criminal law, but also on the practice.  My hope was that one day this course could also be offered by someone with prosecution ties so that students desiring this upper level capstone experience could select from different perspectives.  And it is now my hope that one day I will repeat this experience in my new wonderful home at Stetson University College of Law.

It is wonderful to see the Ohio State Criminal Law Journal providing an outlet for the amici voice in the new Amici: Views From the Field.  And when you see the list of participants, it is most impressive (e.g. Hon. Nancy Gertner). I take my Stetson hat off to Professor Doug Berman on this one.

ellen s. podgor

January 27, 2008 in Teaching -- new courses | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 17, 2007

Who's teaching the business of law?

I just hired my first attorney for a family matter, and in the process was embarrassed to realize that I was unclear about what a "retainer" really meant. That question was easy enough to figure out, but I began to wonder how law schools are preparing their students to run their own practices in terms of setting up an office, finding clients, and managing their billing and expenses.

Last year, when I was helping a friend spread the word about Community Lawyers, Inc. -- an initiative to get more private, neighborhood-based attorneys to play a more active role in advancing community interests -- we were getting consistent feedback from practitioners that law schools should be doing more to help students and alumni establish themselves as small businessmen. It would seem to be entirely in the law schools' own financial interests to help graduates be as successful as possible.

Are your law schools offering courses or programs on actually running a law practice, as distinct from knowing the substance of the law? Do your clinical projects provide hands-on experience managing the practice, not just working on client issues? Who are the leaders in this area now?

(I should note, by way of illustrating the importance of clinical experience to successful practice, that the attorney I retained came, indirectly, through a referral from his school's clinical program, where he had been a student.)

October 17, 2007 in Teaching -- new courses | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 13, 2007

Student Blogging

Professor Jim Taylor, Visiting Clinical Supervisor at University of Montana last semester writes -

"Last summer I attended a conference that CALI put on in Chicago about using law students and technology to improve access to justice for low income citizens.  Out of that I began teaching a course on Public Interest Lawyering.  The writing requirement for the students is a daily blog about public interest law issues.  There are twelve students in the class, and I divided them into 6 teams.  Each team chose a topic to write on.  One week a team member will write and the other will edit, and the next week the one that wrote will then edit.  In addition the class has begun preparing videos for the local justice court on how to file a pro se complaint in a civil case."

For details on what was posted by the students, check out the site here.

- - Ellen S. Podgor

August 13, 2007 in Teaching -- new courses | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2006

Interdisciplinary Adventures, Pt. 2

One of my great frustrations in law school was not learning what seemed most exciting about the law-- how to make a compelling argument to a jury.  Upon becoming a law teacher, one of my goals was to offer a short one-credit class on the subject.  However, I had trouble pulling together a curriculum based on the available materials within law school circles.

I had decided that I wanted to use Aristotle's "On Rhetoric" as the text for the class, and heard that it was already used in another class on campus-- the preaching class at Baylor's seminary.  At that point, the focus of the enterprise changed a bit as I considered the interdisciplinary possibilities of the course.   In short, I could cross-train preachers and lawyers in a common task:  Urging a discrete and individual decision through moral persuasion. 

The class has now been offered for several years, and an article describing it can be found here.  I co-teach the class with Truett seminary's Hulitt Gloer and Baylor's provost, Randall O'Brien.  It has proven to be a popular, meaningful, and practical class.

In the future, I have thought of proposing the class to other law schools which are affilliated via their University with divinity schools as a way to build interdisciplinary contacts-- it would be a great way to spend a year as a visiting prof.

-- Mark Osler

November 21, 2006 in Teaching -- new courses | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 15, 2006

A comical look at curricular reform

As noted here at the WSJ Law Blog, Jeremy Blachman, a 2005 Harvard Law grad and progenitor of Anonymous Lawyer, has this comical take on Harvard's new first-year curriculum.  Jeremy proposes a bunch of new classes he would like to see at his alma mater, and here is his set-up:

I'm not sure I like the changes [to the HLS curriculum]. In a world where law school needs to compete for young people's attention with extreme sports, reality television, and Mark Foley's instant messages, Harvard needs classes that are both relevant and sexy. The rest of the faculty should take Alan Dershowitz's lead.  He's offering a class this year called "Thinking About Taboo Subjects." The description includes words like "rape and child molestation," "torture," "eugenics," "abortion," "holocaust denial," and "scholarship."  Even more promising, the class has the word "thinking" in the title. Not "reading," or "writing," or "completing a 40-hour intensive clinical project." Just "thinking." It sounds like a class even I would have been able to get excited about.

But classes like Prof. Dershowitz's are only the start. If I were in charge (and I shouldn't be) I'd leave the entire existing curriculum behind -- contracts, property, and that confusing class about exploding packages and broken swimming-pool slides -- and implement a completely new set of classes to reflect what young attorneys will need to thrive in their fledgling legal careers.  A new law school curriculum for the next hundred years, since one curriculum change every century seems to be about all they're able to handle.

Though I like Jeremy's comical list of new classes (which include "Being a Supreme Court Justice" and "It's Not Like It Seems on TV"), I cannot help but give some serious thought to what the 1L year would look like if schools really had to create a curriculum with a "completely new set of classes."

Posted by DAB.

November 15, 2006 in Teaching -- new courses | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 09, 2006

MoneyLaw sings a reformer's anthem

Law professors are wimpsThey are also reactionaries.  This is a terrible combination, given how the voters have kicked conservatives in the teeth.  Don't despair.  Visit MoneyLaw and sing along.

Jim Chen

November 9, 2006 in Teaching -- new courses | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2006

Innovative law school clinics

I had the great fortune this year to be asked to cover one of Ohio State's most innovative clinics, our Legislation Clinic.  (The Clinic Director, Professor Steve Huefner, this term is spending extra time on the many innovative projects being done by our Election Law team.)

As explained briefly here and detailed fully here, OSU's Legislation Clinic "provides a front-row view of the legislative process in the Buckeye State as students work directly with legislative leaders and their staffs on matters pending or anticipated to arise before the Ohio House and Senate."  I have been having an extraordinary experience with the Legislation Clinic this fall not only because of its interesting topics during an election season, but also because I enjoy the close student-faculty contact that the clinic fosters and because I have the pleasure of co-teaching with a superstar clinical professor, Terri Enns.

I have heard that a few other schools have some legislatively-oriented clinical offerings, but I am pretty sure the structure of OSU's Legislation Clinic is one-of-a-kind.  And, in this context, my experiences leads me to a request:

I would like readers to note — and assess or promote or even propose — unique clinical programs at law schools.


October 27, 2006 in Teaching -- new courses | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 23, 2006

Innovative law school courses

I hope in future posts to address in depth Harvard Law School's new 1L curriculum.  But before embarking on that project, I wanted to use this new blog to collect information abour innovative courses already in place at law school around the country.

I surmise that most law schools have at least a handful of innovative course offerings, but that most faculty and students are not aware of all the innovate coursework taking place at their home schools, let alone at other schools in their region and nationwide.  And yet, occassional innovations notwithstanding, law schools traditions and administrative realities can often hinder innovative pedagogy.  So, dear readers ...

Please use the comments to report on innovative law school courses that are in place or that you would like to see developed.

I will go first by spotlighting one course I developed at Ohio State.  A few years ago, I created a one-week summer course entitled "Judging and Clerking," which I co-taught with a local federal district judge.  The course provided a great setting to discuss and debate important judicial administration issues that do not readily arise in other courses — issues ranging from how judges should be appointed/elected to the significance of unpublished opinions to the impact and import of judicial clerks. 

October 23, 2006 in Teaching -- new courses | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack