Wishing students success on the bar exam

The Bar Exam is upcoming. And with it comes heightened stress and potential for students, but also an odd chance for diverging interests between a small number of students and their law schools.

Bar exam homonyms: high stakes; gateway, leveler, stressor, useless unnecessary burden after three years of school, fee generator, standardizing, and proficiency. I’m sure “bar exam” conjures up many more thoughts and meanings for others. For law students, the impact of this exam is wide-ranging. Most graduates spend months of intensive study preparing for the bar exam. They incur additional debt for these review courses; they devote months of their lives to study intensively for the exam. Exam passage marks the entree into our profession with all of its benefits and burdens. Exam passage allows our graduates to practice law and makes more likely their getting and keeping a job sooner rather than later.

While for individual students, we provide encouragement, cajoling, and hope for exam success, their exam success has an additional impact on us. For law schools, the bar exam is a factor in accreditation and in reputation. The ABA accreditation standards require a law school to meet a bar pass requirement that can be done in one of two ways: “either by showing that 75 percent of its graduates who took the bar exam in at least three of the previous five years passed or by showing that its graduates’ first-time bar pass rate was no more than 15 points below the average bar pass rate for ABA-approved schools in states where its graduates took the bar.” The ABA, this spring, did not follow through on a proposal that would have increased the passage percent rate requirement from 75 to 80 percent. This connection to accreditation, while arguably standardizing law schools, can recast student success on the bar exam from an individual achievement and triumph to an institutional success or failure.

Therein lies a challenge for a small number of students – reconciling the individual student’s path toward bar exam success with institutional markers of success. Where one student may benefit from repeated attempts at taking the exam, gaining familiarity and comfort and so easing stress that inhibits success, the student’s school must count that student’s learning process as a “failure” against institutional success and reputation. To foster institutional reputation, encouraging some students to wait to take the bar exam seems a good path; on the other hand, for the student who would benefit from the exposure, supporting the student’s decision to take and re-take may be the better path for the student even if not for the institution. A delicate balance is needed when we approach those students who are at risk of not passing the bar exam.

Of course, student success or failure arises from many factors, and the choice to take the exam in the face of difficulties is the graduate’s. It’s also worth remembering that many famous people did not pass the bar exam on their first try including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Lady Michelle Obama, and even Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo. So, I’m going to encourage all of our students to know themselves, to work as hard as they can in the way that works best for them, and of course: wish all students success on the bar exam.

Thirty-One Themes of Thought

“Thirty-One Themes of Thought” is the title I gave my fifth grade class poetry compilation.  What could this possibly have to do with best practices for law professors?

This post, my first for this blog I have long admired, I conceived as a commentary on what I call my “thematic” approach to law teaching.  In my doctrinal Family Law course as well as in my Family Law Clinic I stress recurring themes: the intense public-private tension inherent to Family Law; social change as catalyst for legal developments; storytelling as advocacy; client-centeredness; and holistic lawyering.

As I pondered this concept of “thematic teaching” my mind wandered repeatedly to that alliterative “Title” my 10-year-old brain fashioned . . . 35 years ago.  My use of the word “theme” was likely less about dedication to big-picture thinking than it was about grappling for a word other than “poem” to make my little manila-folder-booklet different from the rest in some small way.  Yet upon further reflection I find a resonance in that word choice with my current work and my teaching style.  Calling my booklet “Themes of Thought,” I believe demonstrated a constant yearning for connectivity (hence the alliteration) and a broad view (referencing the “thought” our class put into each poem)  that is part of my identity.

Taking a thematic approach to law teaching is not something I was taught–it is something that I developed organically as I grew the past 12 years as an educator.  And although I have been aware of it as my approach for years, I just a few months ago began to name it and reflect on it.  Reflection, I firmly believe, is a fundamental aspect of my professional growth as a professor and a lawyer, but also of my students’ growth.  Reflection as a tool in clinical law teaching is nothing new.  I first experienced it as a law student invited/required to submit journals routinely during my clinical year.  Borrowing that tool from my mentors was arguably the single best decision I made as a new clinical professor four years ago.  Reflection fosters self-awareness, which fosters a maximization of strengths.  Lawyers work hard, think critically and often receive little praise from clients and judges alike–not to mention opposing counsel.  Reflecting on one’s accomplishments and professional development, in addition to client interactions, shows budding lawyer (our students) that they can do this work and in fact are doing it well on many fronts.  By the same token, the opporutnity for feedback from their professor or other clinical supervisor through submission of journals is a safe and controlled space to reflect on mistakes and engage in contemplation about how to improve skills while a mentor helps them process those often uncomfortable realities.

This methodology of reflection and self-awareness is different in the traditional law school classroom setting than clinics, but it can be done.  Several colleagues have written and presented at conferences on using written reflections and other tools in non-clinical classrooms.  In my thematic teaching paradigm, I use several approaches in my Family Law lecture course, which often holds enrollment of over 50 students:

1. On Day One of class I explain the main theme of the course, which is the public-private tension mentioned above.

2. My “big picture” approach is evident from both my remarks that day in class; my syllabus which describes each class period’s theme; and the casebook, which opens with commentary on that very same public-private tension unique to Family Law.

3. I assign casebook material for Day One, comprised of several United States Supreme Court cases interpreting Due Process liberty interests.  During class I ask students to ponder why a course on Family Law suddenly looks so much like a Constitutional Law course.  Drawing their attention back to the public-private tension theme, I remind the students that Due Process liberty inquiries center around that same public-private tension.

4.  One Day One I dispense the material via lecture and PowerPoint, but clarify that I use the Socratic method from Day Two forward and call on students at random.  The Socratic method promotes self-awareness and reflection in a way no other methodology can offer, when managed successfully.  Each teacher must define success for themselves, but for me it means engaging the student about why they responded as they did, regardless of the accuracy of that response.  Even if the response is flawed in some way, I invite them to thoroughly vet it.  Then I clarify any flaws–with compassion and professional respect.

5. Volunteered answers, and questions, are welcomed in my classroom.  The questions are particularly useful for promoting reflection as well as larger themes, as they often stem from common public misconceptions about Family Law ripe for discussion.

6. Returning back to Day One for a moment, I ask the students something critcal after my introduction of the course themes and my teaching style, but before my lecture on the assigned material.  I invite them to mindfully reflect on whether this course will serve their needs as a learner.  Immediately, they as listeners are cued to reflect what they do need as learners of the law.  With what I hope is humility, I remind them that my brilliant colleague Dara Purvis also teaches Family Law and they can take the course with either prof. Students dropping my course after hearing that speech does not offend or scare me, and I stress that.  Occasionally a student walks out at that point, never to return.  That is utterly fine.

7. Finally, the final exam.  After a semester of thematic teaching and, one can assume at least a sliver of reflective learning, the students are asked at least one question on my exam about the public policy aspect of Family Law. The question is not a fact pattern.  Other parts of my exam utilize those.  But the policy question asks them to consider (and sometimes describe) an area of Family Law and what they learned about it, and opine on the efficacy of that legal framework or approach.  I like to end the semester the way we began, with reflection on the big picture, with consideration of our legal system as social underpinning.  How does the law reflect our values and social norms? Who gets to define those norms?  How much government regulation of private decision-making on personal matters is too much?

What is your signature teaching approach?  I ask my clinic students to reflect on what is their unique style of lawyering.  As their teachers I believe we are well served by reflecting on what is our unique style of teaching. The growth among our academy and our students is symbiotic.  Let us embrace that.

Writing about Teaching Literature

Mary Lynch:

This may be helpful for those of us whose summer plans include scholarship on teaching and learning.
….. And speaking of the fruits of our labor, the blueberries in the farmers markets on the East Coast are really spectacularly delicious right now.
What “fruit” scholarly or organic appeals to you this summer?

Originally posted on Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed.:

"Writing" by Jeffrey James Pacres (CC BY-NC-ND)by Laura L. Runge

The MLA recently released its long-awaited report on Doctoral Study in Modern Languages and Literature. Among its recommendations, the report argues for greater support and value for teacher-training. Although not an early harbinger of change, the report gives a welcome endorsement to strategies that we have seen developing in doctoral programs around the country.Report of the MLA Task Force on Doctoral  Study in Modern Language and Literature I’ve taught a practicum in teaching literature at the University of South Florida since 2004. I’ve also written two teaching guides for Norton and a couple of articles on pedagogy. Whereas in the earlier days I felt something like of a lone voice in the wilderness among my colleagues in English, I’ve watched the scholarship on teaching transform to a diverse and robust field.

There are now many opportunities to share our scholarship on teaching and learning, and there is much to be learned from the variety of classroom experiences in…

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Trauma Informed Services and Trauma Informed Supervision (Another Post From “the Real World”)

Originally posted on Asedillolopez's Weblog:

In my new position as executive director of a non-profit dedicated to eliminating domestic violence, I have learned a lot about trauma.  Trauma causes three main automatic reactions in the brain:  Fight, flight or freeze.  Trauma also makes us more sensitive to triggering events that can recall the trauma in our brains.  A smell, the slamming of a door, a sharp noise, even a tone of voice can trigger a reexperice of the traumatic event.  And, service providers, including lawyers, experience vicarious trauma by listening to the stories of traumatic events experience by others.  Knowing that this is happening is the first step in learning how to address the effects of truama.  At Enlace Comunitario, we try to have polcies that don’t retraumatize our clients.  We try to have a warm and welcoming waiting room and we don’t have harsh policies such as cancelling an appointment for someone who comes…

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ABA Council on Legal Education Maintains Separation Between Paid Work and Academic Externships

Last week, the ABA Council on the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar (Council) approved a comprehensive revision of the accreditation standards for law schools and moved the package of revisions on to the ABA House of Delegates for approval at its August meeting.   Before finalizing the package of revisions, the Council voted on the  Standards Review Committee ‘s   recommendation to remove  the bar on paid externships,  a recommendation strongly supported by the ABA Law Student Division.   The Council rejected that proposal and voted to maintain the separation between academic externships and paid work.   The National Law Journal reported on the Council’s action and quoted Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director for admissions and legal education, “The council received a lot of comments and decided to not make the change. The fundamental reason is this perceived tension between the obligations of someone who is a paid employee and a student.”

At first blush, paid externships sounds positive — a  way to assist law students in reducing their debt while engaging in experiential learning.   That point has been argued by the Law Student Division.  However, as I discussed back in February,   permitting paid externships would create new problems.  One of the more likely outcomes was identified in the comment submitted by the Clinical Legal Education Association,

But those employers that are most capable of affording the full cost of a “paid externship” are also likely to accept only externship students who they deem qualified for long-term employment. Reliance on class rank would become the norm for “paid externship” placements. Traditionally, clinical courses have provided opportunities for all students to hone their abilities and prepare for practice. Students who are not at the top of the class have benefited from a chance to develop and demonstrate abilities that do not emerge in an exam. Particularly in light of the legal market and the needs of our students, CLEA is profoundly concerned about a change in the Interpretation that would benefit only students whose rankings are at the top of the class.

Moreover, those employers able to bear the full cost of a “paid externship” would more than likely “shop”among law schools. Faced with the choice of establishing a recruitment program with a school in the top tier or with a school in the third tier, CLEA believes that employers would choose the former. We suggest that revoking Interpretation 305-3 would limit the availability of certain kinds of experience to top-ranking students at top-tier schools and severely restrict students’ opportunities to participate in clinical and experiential education.

In short, CLEA strongly supports the interests of students, by seeking to assure that all students at all schools engage in high quality work, under close and careful supervision. We want more for our students than checking cites and reviewing depositions. We seek a set of standards that ensures high quality clinical legal education, in which supervisors are fully invested in teaching and mentoring students. CLEA encourages mandates that will result in equal access to all courses and for all law students. It is in the best interests of students to preserve a separate market for paid employment in which students are compensated with the fair market value of their work. Permitting the mixture of educational and employment functions will result in the diminishment of value for each, harming both students and law schools.

In its comment, the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT’) raised excellent questions about the the  likely, although unintended, consequences,

Having employers pay students also raises difficult questions about control of the assignment and crediting process. Could the employer fire a student for not performing at high enough levels?
Would a faculty supervisor be able to reassign a student if the employer failed to provide adequate onsite supervision if that would have implications for other students working for that employer, with or
without receiving academic credit? Could students refuse tasks assigned by their paying employer if those tasks were not consistent with the learning goals and the placement expectations? Would students be willing to discuss frankly with faculty supervisors any externship site supervision problems if they worried that it could mean displeasing an employer and potentially losing income. These are just
some of the troubling pedagogical issues likely to arise if students earn academic credit for paid employment.

We do need to find ways to reduce law school costs and defray student debt,   but not at the expense of providing appropriately designed and equally available academic experiences.  The Council made the right decision for legal education and for law students.




Innovative licensing of architects – a model for the legal profession?

While many who comment about the design of legal education look to medical schools, it seems to me that architecture schools provide another useful model. The architecture curriculum integrates classroom instruction with a central role for the studio (the equivalent of simulation or clinical work in law school), and the review of student work (also called critique or “crit”) is central to the studio. There may be lessons to be learned.
Now an alternative method of licensure (similar to the Daniel Webster Scholars Program in New Hampshire, but on a larger scale) is being considered:
NCARB Endorses New Path to Becoming an Architect:  Architect Licensure Upon Graduation

Incorporating internship and examination requirements into university education, the regulatory organization aims to simplify and accelerate the licensing process.

30 May 2014
Washington, DC—The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) Board of Directors has announced their endorsement of the concept of an additional, structured path that leads to licensure in a U.S. jurisdiction. The new path—licensure upon graduation from an accredited program—would integrate the rigorous internship and examination requirements that aspiring architects must fulfill into the years spent completing a professional degree in architecture.
The concept was designed by a distinguished group of volunteers convened by NCARB, which recommends national architect registration standards, called the Licensure Task Force. This group, which was initially formed in mid-2013, is headed by NCARB’s Immediate Past President Ron Blitch of Louisiana, and it includes former and current leaders of NCARB, the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Association of Colleges and Schools of Architecture (ACSA), and the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), as well as interns, recently licensed architects, program deans and instructors, and jurisdictional licensing board representatives.
A Progressive Path
Describing the work of the Licensure Task Force, NCARB CEO Michael Armstrong said, “NCARB is engaged in streamlining and simplifying the licensing process for aspiring architects, and we are actively re-engineering all elements of the architectural licensing process—education, experience and examination—to focus on facilitation of licensing.”
“This additional path to licensure is another concrete step to reimagining and reconfiguring each part of the process while upholding the rigorous standards needed to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare,” he said.
This progressive concept was borne of research and development efforts by the Licensure Task Force, with leaders from diverse segments of the architectural community to analyze each component of the licensure process to identify overlaps and redundancies to existing programs.
Now beginning the second year, the Licensure Task Force will start to identify schools interested in participating in the program. NCARB expects to issue schools Requests for Information later in the year, followed by a Request for Proposal process in 2015.
Exam Evolution
In addition to the licensure work, NCARB also announced this month that a transition plan is underway to guide the implementation of major improvements and changes to the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®), the test that all prospective architects must take to get their licenses. The new ARE 5.0 will launch in late 2016, while ARE 4.0 will remain available for at least 18 months after the launch.
The exam is required by all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands for initial architectural licensure by assessing candidates for their knowledge, skills, and ability to provide all services required in the practice of architecture.


REMINDER: Educating the Transactional Lawyer of Tomorrow

Tina L. Stark Gives Kickoff Speech for Emory Law’s Conference on Transactional Law Education,

June 6-7

REMINDER:  If you haven’t yet registered for Emory Law’s Fourth Biennial Conference on Teaching Transactional Law and Skills, entitled “Educating the Transactional Lawyer of Tomorrow,” you should do so now.

Tina L. Stark will return to Emory to kick off the Conference by updating the fantasy curriculum that she proposed in her speech at the inaugural conference in 2008.  On Day Two, the keynote panel will address the topic, “Skills is Not a Dirty Word:  Identifying and Teaching Transactional Law Competencies.”

You won’t want to miss these or the many other terrific sessions we have planned.  You can register for the Conference by clicking here.  If you have any questions about registration, please contact the Conference Coordinator, Edna Patterson, at edna.patterson@emory.edu.

Please click here to download the 2014 Conference Schedule.

I hope to see you in June.


Sue Payne

Executive Director

Center for Transactional Law and Practice

Emory University

1301 Clifton Road

Atlanta, Georgia  30322-2770



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."

Prepared to Practice?

This article in the New York Times is about a different profession, but it seems familiar.


New York Law Journal Special Report on Experiential Learning & Charting a Career Path

Wanted to get this Special Report out to you ASAP! I am poring over it now and will report back soon!

 View the Digital Edition of this Special Report.

Experiential Learning: Practice Makes Perfect

Bruce A. Green, the Louis Stein Professor at Fordham Law School, writes: Making students ready for practice is not just a task for the formal curriculum. Law students spend much of their time in law-related pursuits outside the classroom including in extracurricular activities and part-time and summer employment. Law schools strive to help students make the most of these opportunities.

Theory Makes Successful Lawyering Possible

Jeremy Paul, dean of Northeastern University School of Law, writes that the over-emphasis on the divide between theory and practice lurking within today’s calls for law school reform obscures a far more basic reality. Grounding in “theory” is what makes successful lawyering possible in the first place.

Alternative Career Tracks Are Innovative and Necessary

Richard A. Rosenbaum, the chief executive officer of Greenberg Traurig in Manhattan, writes: Law schools, firms and seasoned attorneys must continue to work together to creatively ensure that we keep open the doors of opportunity to emerging legal talent.

Building ‘Collaborative Intelligence’ in a Challenging Legal Market

Alison Nina Bernard, the director of corporate practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, and Niki Kopsidas who oversees firm-wide lateral partner hiring and integration at Blank Rome, write: In today’s highly competitive legal market, an attorney needs a high level of Collaborative Intelligence to help clients meet their strategic business goals, and law firms and other legal organizations need to foster a culture where knowledge and expertise are shared openly and effectively.

Recalculating Goals to Move Forward

Jill Backer, associate director for employer relations at Brooklyn Law School, writes: Because plans and people change, as do industries and the employment market, your goals must be able to change as well. If your goals are resilient then you can be too.


Read more: http://www.newyorklawjournal.com/id=1397823099047/Law-Schools#ixzz2zYPVtExj


Agenda Circulated For April 25th Standards Review Committee Meeting

As readers to this blog know from earlier posts, the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar completed almost all of its work on comprehensive review at its meeting held on March 14-15, 2014. Importantly, the proposed changes  incorporate identification and assessment of student learning outcomes into the Standards.  In March, the Council also approved a few final matters for Notice and Comment:

  • Interpretation 305-3 (Study Outside the Classroom)
  • Interpretation 503-3 (Admission Test)
  • Standard 505 (Granting of J.D. Degree Credit for Prior Law Study)
  • Chapter 8 (Council Authority, Variances, and Amendments)
  • Definitions
  • Rules of Procedure

Today,  the  Standards Review Committee (which reports “up to the Council”)  posted the  agenda and supporting materials for its next meeting which will be held in St. Louis on April 25th .   The agenda begins with a Hearing on the matters out for Notice and Comment: Interpretation 305-3, Interpretation 503-3, Standard 505, and Chapter 8.   The SRC will review  the posted comments as well as  the draft final report of the proposed comprehensive changes.

The posted material also  includes a helpful summary of Council actions ( Council acts on ABA law school approval standards at March 2014 meeting) and a statement of next steps:

The complete set of revisions is expected to be reviewed by the ABA House of Delegates in August 2014 in accordance with House Rule 45.9. The House may either concur with the Council’s decisions or refer a proposed change back to the Council for further consideration. Any reference back to the Council must include a statement setting forth the reasons for the referral. A decision by the Council is subject to a maximum of two referrals back to the Council by the House. The decision by the Council following the second referral is final.

The end of this comprehensive review is in sight!

“Don’t Skimp on Legal Training” NYT Editorial by Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow



Clinical Law Review Workshop – Registration deadline is June 30, 2014

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 workshop. Full 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.


Information about the Workshop – including the Registration form, scholarship application form, and information for reserving hotel rooms – is available on-line at:




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

Council on Legal Education Maintains Tenure and 405, Adds Requirement of Six Experiential Credits and Calls for Notice and Comment on Paid Externships

The ABA Council of the Section on Legal Education met in San Diego on March 14th and 15th  and voted on the final recommendations of the Standards Review Committee’s (SRC’s) comprehensive review of the standards begun in 2008. ( See earlier discussions here and here and here). I report on some but not all of this past weekend’s work.

On the controversial SRC recommendations on faculty tenure, security of position and academic freedom, the Council voted down both alternatives to the current standards, thus retaining the current system of tenure and security of position pursuant to ABA Standard 405. This is a victory for those who support tenure and security of position as the key to ensuring academic freedom, as I do. Council members acknowledged that the current standards are imperfect.  For example, current standards unfairly institutionalize hierarchies within faculty that are inconsistent with innovation and preparing students for the profession, particularly with respect to our Legal Writing and Lawyering colleagues.  This and other issues will be left for the next comprehensive review.

On the competing proposals to require experiential learning for all students, the Council voted to require six credits, rejecting an alternative proposal for 15 credits.  This is a very small step in the right direction but at least it is a step.  The approved ABA standard approved by the Council reads as follows:

“one or more experiential course(s) totaling at least six credit hours. An experiential course must be a simulation course, a law clinic, or a field placement. To satisfy this requirement, a course must be primarily experiential in nature and must:

(i) integrate doctrine, theory, skills, and legal ethics, and engage students in
performance of one or more of the professional skills identified in Standard

(ii) develop the concepts underlying the professional skills being taught;
(iii) provide multiple opportunities for performance; and
(iv) provide opportunities for self-evaluation.”

As to proposals concerning student pro bono hours, the Council adopted 50 hours as an “aspirational” goal,  thus rejecting an hourly requirement such as that imposed by the New York Court of Appeals for admission to the bar in New York.   With respect to inclusion of LGBT law students and law students with disabilities, the Council rejected proposals for affirmative inclusion, relying on general non-discrimination language.

Finally, the Council voted to send out for Notice and Comment a proposal to permit students to receive academic credit for paid externships. The Council is expected to vote on this proposal at its June meeting. As I discussed in an earlier post, this proposed change is fraught with difficulties and real risks. Those interested in this issue should think about information that  needs to be conveyed to the Council and watch the ABA website for posting of the time frame for Notice and Comment. I will be following closely and will announce what I learn on this blog.  The ABA House of Delegates is scheduled to vote on the proposed revised standards at their August meeting.

Economic Value of a Legal Education

Readers may be interested in Populist Outrage, Reckless Empirics: A Review of Failing Law Schools, a recent blog post by Michael Simkovic & Frank McIntyre drawing on their article The Economic Value of a Law Degree .

Simkovic & McIntyre challenge the empirical analysis underlying Brian Tamanaha’s claim that legal education is no longer a good value given current law school tuition levels. They point out numerous ways in which Tamanaha’s argument rested on apples to oranges statistical comparisons, and note flaws in other studies he relied on.

Key conclusions: “[T]he value of a law degree typically exceeds its costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even at the twenty-fifth percentile, a law degree is typically a profitable investment. At current price levels, law degrees generally provide an attractive double-digit pretax rate of return.Legal education is profitable both for students and for the federal government as tax collector and lender.”

For me the most provocative idea in the post was one from Tamanaha — supported by Simkovic & McIntyre — that I hadn’t remembered: Law students are good enough loan repayment risks that law schools might consider providing loans directly to their students at lower interest rates than are currently available. A new best practice, perhaps?


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