NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION VIGOROUSLY OPPOSES PROPOSAL TO BRING UBE TO NY THIS JULY

Less than a month ago, the New York State Courts circulated a proposal to change the New York State (NYS) Bar Exam by adopting the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) along with a second, separately graded “New York Law Exam” segment consisting of 50 multiple-choice questions, tested for one hour on the second day of the exam.   The proposal would make the changes effective for all current graduating law students who face the bar exam in July 2015.    This past weekend, the New York State Bar Association House of Delegates unanimously opposed the proposed immediate changes,  sending a  message to the NYS Board of Law Examiners and to the New York Court of Appeals – do not bring the Uniform Bar Exam and a yet to be formulated or studied New York Exam to NYS in  July 2015.  Even more significantly, the House directed the State Bar President, based on an amendment from the floor,  to do everything possible to prevent immediate implementation of a new bar exam in New York.  

So, how did NYS get to the point where the Courts and the Bar are in such conflict over proposed changes to the bar exam?

For several years,  the NYS Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Committee (LEAB)  (on which I have formerly served as an active member) has been studying how to improve the bar exam to make it fairer for all groups of test takers and more relevant to what graduates need to know, value and do in the early years of practice. See NYSBA Legal Education September2013Journal particularly page 31.  The Committee, through its chairs, has reached out to the NYS Board of Law Examiners and the Chief Justice about these matters without success.  The UBE was not one of the reform measures which LEAB proposed for further study or pilot projects.

Suddenly, and without notice to the NYSBA LEAB Committee,  co-chaired by  well-respected practitioner Eileen Millett and equally well-respected Touro Law Center Dean Patricia Salkin , the courts circulated and posted the following:

1) UNIFORM BAR EXAMINATION (UBE)
 POSTED OCTOBER 7, 2014

The New York State Board of Law Examiners has recommended to the New York Court of Appeals that the current bar examination be replaced with the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE). The Court of Appeals is considering adopting the UBE for the administration of the July 2015 bar exam. On October 6, 2014, the Court of Appeals issued a Request for Public Comment on the proposal. Submissions will be accepted until November 7, 2014. A copy of the Request for Public Comment is available by clicking this link:   New York Court of Appeals Request for Comment  http://www.nybarexam.org

The proposal and request for comment document asserts that  “The UBE is prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) and passage of the test would produce a portable score that can be used to gain admission in other states that accept the UBE, provided the applicant satisfies any other jurisdiction-specific admission requirements. As the UBE is accepted by more states,the portable score will facilitate lawyer mobility across state lines, resulting in expanded employment opportunities for lawyers throughout the nation and facilitating multi-state law practices.”

Given the surprise announcement from the Court on October 6, 2014 of a 30-day comment period (open until this Friday, Nov. 7th) , the LEAB and its co-chairs  had only a matter of weeks to research, discuss and prepare a report for the State Bar Association about the implications of the proposed changes. The LEAB report 10-29-2014 (2) argues that it is simply too soon to discuss the merits of the Uniform Bar Exam and its potential impact on test takers in New York because of the surprise nature of the announcement along with absence of any study or report discussing a need, a cost-benefit analysis, or a discussion of whether there could be disparate impacts on minority test-takers.  LEAB is concerned about potential increase in costs for test-takers, impact on barriers to entry to the profession in New York, and impact on the New York job market.  LEAB  discussions emphasized that the practicing bar has been pressuring law schools to meet the demands of a changing market place including, among other things, producing more “practice ready” lawyers that would presumably include a richer knowledge of New York Law.  Impacts on foreign lawyers and other important issues for consideration were also raised.

On this past weekend, co-chairs Millett and Salkin presented their findings to the NYSBA House of Delegates.  The presentation to the State Bar can be viewed here (Click on the Nov. 1 House of Delegates Meeting and then click on the Report of the Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar)  Co-Chair Millett challenged the notion that the proposed reforms as outlined would actually result in  portability. Co-chair Salkin pointed out that the notion of “uniformity” seems misleading given that in NY many uniform rules are not used and that  current law school  courses focus on statutes different than those used by the UBE .   Significantly, three past presidents of the NYSBA testified against the proposed immediate changes including Steve Younger who emphasized the issues raised by New York’s special connection with international lawyers from around the globe admitted to practice  in New York State.  Many expressed concern for current students facing the July Bar, including Albany Law School Professor Michael Hutter who asked  “Why the Rush to Judgment?” Dean Patricia Salkin and Betty Lugo (President-elect of the Puerto Rican Bar Association founded in 1957) expressed particular concern that minority bar associations were not consulted, and that questions on the proposed brand new “New York Law Exam” component have never been tested on previous exams, a “best practice” for all standardized tests that are given as points of entry to higher education and the professions.

Why does this matter?

The contents, pass rates and disparate impacts of the bar exam matter tremendously .  This is our profession’s gatekeeping device.  It announces  what we value and what we do not value. It will be a make or break change for many law students starting in July who have prepared their course of study under different sets of expectations. For many schools and many students, bar exam subjects and testing methods determine their course curriculum rather than what they need to meet student learning outcomes or preparing for practice. This proposed change deserves further scrutiny and evaluation.  New Yorkers also deserve that the Court evaluate  the success of licensure practices which include clinical evaluation while in professional school as opposed to sole reliance on standardized testing.

See attached SALT Letter-NY Bar opposing the proposed changes.

My  Reaction to the Proposed Changes:

POTENTIAL ADVANTAGES:

  • Should proposed changes result in a decrease in the number of doctrinal subjects tested on the NY Bar exam that will be an advantageous change both for making the bar exam more relevant and for allowing law schools and students to craft better curricular choices to prepare them for the jobs and careers of today and tomorrow.  (see earlier BLOG post on this issue here.)

POTENTIAL DISADVANTAGES:

  • The process for adopting the proposed change is too hasty and is unfair to current third year students and to second year students who have already planned three semesters around the exam.
  • The proposed changes have not been studied appropriately. For example, no one knows if the new format, particularly the 50 question NYS multiple choice format,  will exacerbate the already disparate impact on graduates of color and/or if it will create a separate barrier for admission to those who will make great lawyers but not particularly good standardized test-takers given the speededness/speediness factor – 50 multiple choice in one hour will make or break you on the NY part!
  •  The proposed format fails to address the critical need for bar licensure to include evaluation of actual, supervised, and  limited practice of law while in law school or immediately thereafter.  As a gateway to a client-centered, civic profession, evaluation of the limited supervised practice of law could and should replace – at least some part – of the current standardized testing.

NEW YORK LAWYERS, LAW STUDENTS  AND LAW PROFESSORS ACT NOW!  Comments due by this Friday November 7th.

Address comments to:

UniformBarExam@nycourts.gov

The Baby Has Finally Been Birthed!

Comprehensive revisions passed

The ABA House of Delegates passed the comprehensve revisions with “minimal  fuss” according to the ABA Journal linked  above.  One area, however, garnered  significant attention and also resulted in  an odd, though perhaps meaningless ,  procedural move.  The House voted  to send back to the Section on Legal Education for further consideration the comment to standard 305 which prohibits payment to students for credit-based courses.

What does this mean? Law schools which have not already done so must start identifying, articulating publicly and assessing student learning out outcomes, providing every student six  credits of clinic or clinic-like experiential courses and requiring students to take two credit hours worth of professional responsibility coursework.

Well, it’s a start……

Five Tool Lawyers

Leading Northwest legal practitioner and technology entrepreneur Marty Smith has an interesting post on the Five Tool Lawyer over at Legal Refresh. Using the metaphor of the Five Tool Lawyer, Marty breaks apart the stages of problem solving, incorporating risk analysis in a way I found helpful. In my response Five Tool Lawyers and Legal Education, I critique aspects of the Five Tool Lawyer metaphor for compressing too much into the 1st [Use interviewing skills to gather client facts, goals and needs] and 5th tools[Counsel, document, negotiate and advocate on behalf of client]. But here’s why I thought the metaphor was compelling:

"Compelling, because [it] moves beyond issue spotting v. problem solving to articulate the stages of problem solving, targeting a spotlight on often overlooked aspects. . . . By focusing on risk, the metaphor highlights two often neglected stages of the lawyer’s work – “use judgment to assess actual risks” and “problem solve for best way to meet client’s needs with minimal risk.” At the same time, it implicitly places the legal problem in the larger context of the individual’s life, or the business’s health. And it underscores the fact that lawyers need to know how to assess the significance of legal risks within that larger context."

Teaching the Millennials

Just appearing in the Fall 2013 edition of the Clinical Law Review is an astute and riveting article by Emily Benfer and Colleen Shanahan, “Educating the Invincibles:  Strategies for Teaching the Millennial Generation in Law School” that should give us all pause, especially those of us now teaching our second and third generation of law student.

After describing specific types of nurturing that this generation experienced during their formative years, the article provides detailed and specific strategies for teaching these students, who were born between 1981 and 1999. It is assumed that, because of the particular formative experiences these students experienced as children, they have distinct needs, as learners, than did those of other generations, and that, if we want to “reach” them most effectively, we need to understand first who they are, so that we will be able tailor our teaching to them, in both the traditional and clinical types of classrooms.

The authors see these students as “confident and optimistic,” “service and cause-oriented and want to contribute to the greater good.”  Yet they are also described as pressured, impatient, sheltered, and privileged. Because they have been told they are special, they can seem to have a sense of entitlement.  Their assumption that short-term achievement equals long-term success causes them to focus on grades and not on the processes by which their grades are achieved.  They do not expect failure, so are often surprised when their performance does not result in high praise.  Again, because they were taught that they are “winners” simply for participating, they are accustomed to receiving awards for just that. They can become uncomfortable with criticism and  “aggressive and even caustic when criticized.”

Further, according to Benfer and Shanahan, being inseparable from the internet, these students are able to take in massive amounts of information simultaneously and consider themselves to be efficient multi-taskers.  Yet, because they are accustomed to instantaneous answers that do not require deliberation or examination, they may not have developed the tools to extract the depth of information necessary to develop critical thinking.

The types of learning environments preferred by Millennialists are made-to-order for clinical professors.  According to the authors, these students thrive in learning environments that are self-directed, interactive, collaborative, team-based, and hands-on; and that employ frequent and multiple forms of feedback, multi-media, and stress simulations and real life opportunities for learning.

On the other hand, because of their common experiences with teamwork, the authors caution that these students may be uncomfortable working independently, perhaps due to the higher risk of personal failure.

Especially if you’re engaged in clinical teaching, do you recognize any of these traits in your recent students?  Have they chafed at independent work?  Been so over-confident that they have prepared insufficiently for court or other case responsibilities?  Pushed back at any meaningful critique?  Seem to feel they are entitled to that “A,” regardless of the difficulties they had with their class and/or case responsibilities?  Expected results to come not from hours of work but from an initial impression gained while reading a couple of pages?   If so, you will both enjoy and find helpful “Educating the Invincibles.”

Helpful commentary on the perennial problem of political backlash against law school clinics about their choice of clients

Tulane Environmental Law Clinic director Adam Babich has put together a helpful piece, rich with deftly chosen citations from the likes of Ted Olsen, John Adams, and Justice Souter, to demonstrate the necessity of law school clinic independence in client selection, both for educational and service purposes. It can be found here:

http://www.americanbar.org/publications/professional_lawyer/2013/volume_22_number_1/twenty_questions_and_answers_about_environmental_law_school_clinics.html

In a few pages and accessible Q & A format, it is just as applicable to and useful to share with many non-environmental clinics, such as immigration student attorneys, who handle similar work (“involving complex regulations, administrative law, and disputes involving lots of documents”) and face comparable issues: on the totem pole of public unpopularity, undocumented immigrants, especially those allegedly convicted of crimes, may rank even lower than environmental activists.

My one quibble in presenting the article to students would be to comment on the use of commonplace phrases like “take the case” or “accept the case” or “reject/turn down the case.” I try to teach our student attorneys to think more in terms of “making an offer of representation” or “not prepared to offer representation.” It’s a subtle difference, I know, but not unrelated to the thrust of the piece in terms of the nature of the lawyer’s role, and a small way to reinforce the central concept of client as decision-maker.

Vanessa

Clinical Law Review Workshop on 9-27-14 — Please save the date

The Clinical Law Review will hold its next Clinical Writers’ Workshop on Saturday, September 27, 2014, at NYU Law School.

 

The Workshop will provide an opportunity for clinical teachers who are writing about any subject (clinical pedagogy, substantive law, interdisciplinary analysis, empirical work, etc.) to meet with other clinicians writing on related topics to discuss their works-in-progress and brainstorm ideas for further development of their articles. Attendees will meet in small groups organized, to the extent possible, by the subject matter in which they are writing. Each group will “workshop” the draft of each member of the group.

 

Participation in the Workshop requires the submission of a paper because the workshop takes the form of small group sessions in which all members of the group comment on each other’s manuscripts. By June 30, all applicants will need to submit a mini-draft or prospectus, 3-5 pages in length, of the article they intend to present at the workshopFull drafts of the articles will be due by September 1, 2014.

 

As in the previous Clinical Law Review Workshops, participants will not have to pay an admission or registration fee but participants will have to arrange and pay for their own travel and lodging. To assist those who wish to participate but who need assistance for travel and lodging, NYU Law School has committed to provide 10 scholarships of up to $750 per person to help pay for travel and lodging. The scholarships are designed for those clinical faculty who receive little or no travel support from their law schools and who otherwise would not be able to attend this conference without scholarship support. Applicants for scholarships will be asked to submit, with their 3-5 page prospectus, by June 30, a proposed budget for travel and lodging and a brief statement of why the scholarship would be helpful in supporting their attendance at this conference.  The Board will review all scholarship applications and issue decisions about scholarships in early July. The scholarships are conditioned upon recipients’ meeting all requirements for workshop participation, including timely submission of drafts.

 

If you have any comments or suggestions you would like to send us, we would be very happy to hear from you. Comments and suggestions should be sent to Randy Hertz at randy.hertz@nyu.edu.

 

– The Board of Editors of the Clinical Law Review

Congratulations UNM and Editors of the proposed new Best Practices Book!

This weekend, the University of New Mexico hosted a workshop BEST PRACTICES IN LEGAL EDUCATION: The Walls Are Coming Down” in which draft chapters of a new “Best Practices” book were reviewed and discussed.  The proposal to create a second book focused on best practices in legal education is the brainchild of Professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, ably assisted by Professors Deborah Maranville, , Carolyn Kaas and Lisa Bliss. The symposium workshop brought together law professors from throughout the country interested in how legal education and the world of law schools has changed since the publication of the 2007 book Best Practices in Legal Education. Facilitated by Professors Beryl Blaustone and Alex Scherr, the conference explored how many law professors fluidly move from former silos of clinical, legal writing, lawyering, librarian, doctrinal, theory, or skills concentrations to pioneer a new kind of curriculum, better prepare students for the profession, explore the limits and usefulness of technology, and deepen the understanding and learning of law students through self-improving assessment processes.

Fully cognizant of the pressures on legal educators, the fact that not all in legal education welcome the need to change, and the moral imperative to address the concerns of debt-ridden unemployed law students, the authors, editors, advisory board members and readers reviewed challenges, cross-cutting themes and areas of promise. They engaged in innovative thinking about how to move legal education forward for the good of the profession, society and the students who desire to be lawyers of tomorrow. The keynote speaker for the Friday night dinner and author of the first book, Professor Roy Stuckey, directed the participants’ attention to what legal education should look like in 2027. At the same time, he reminded us that those seeking to improve legal education today stand on the shoulders of folks such as the honorable Rosalie Wahl and former ABA president Bob MacCrate who paved the way for the changes we have seen in the last 40 years. He recalled their joint mission to prepare “agents for justice in our communities.”

Every law graduate needs to understand fully that civic professional role of the lawyer. And every admittee to the bar has a sworn duty to improve our system of and access to justice. Returning to those principles can help prioritize our cost-cutting and can position us to move forward in the best interests of our students, our institutions and the society our profession is pledged to serve.

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