The Legal Writing Institute, the Association of Legal Writing Directors, the Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research Section of the Association of American Law Schools and Fordham Law School are hosting a first of its kind Scholars & Scholarship Workshop on Wednesday, January 6, 2016 (immediately preceding this year’s AALS conference). There is no charge to attend and registration is open at Joint Workshop Registration. The registration deadline is December 1, 2015. The full Joint Workshop Program is here.
We are in the season of Thanksgiving. I hope that all of us can step back, take a breath, and reflect on our blessings as we head into the Thanksgiving weekend, to be followed very soon by the yearly challenges of preparing and grading fall term exams.
Here are some of the things I am thankful for at this time in 2015:
- Legal educators are becoming more knowledgeable and committed to innovative teaching and assessment methods than ever. I attended the assessment conference at Whittier Law School that was the subject of Barbara Glesner-Fines earlier post on this blog. I must say it was among the best conferences I have ever attended. We had numerous examples of exemplary teaching from around the country (among my favorites were Andi Curcio, Judy Daar, Cassandra Hill, Susan Simpson, Patricia Leary, Andrea Funk, and Barry Currier… but it is hard to call out favorites since all were excellent). I particularly give thanks for David Thomson’s reminder that not that long ago, he and his colleagues at the University of Denver School of Law hosted a conference on assessment that pushed the envelope. What a long way we have come.
- Legal educators are asking the challenging questions about the ways in which bar exams (particularly those developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners) are or are not assessing what needs to be assessed through national and state bar examinations. There is a growing realization that deeper dialogue is needed since it appears that the National Conference is employing important statistical standards for assuring the integrity of their examinations, but that such standards are not enough to assure that examinations actually test student capacity to serve as competent lawyers in the public interest.
- Clinical, legal writing, and traditional faculty members have been coming together to ask challenging questions and to offer deep insights about legal education. This year has seen the publication of “Building on Best Practices” under the leadership of Debbie Maranville, Lisa Radtke Bliss, Carolyn Wilkes Kaas and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. This publication is free to legal educators, thanks to the support of the book’s publisher, Lexis. There are many insights that are freely shared in this publication and faculties across the country and abroad should give careful attention to the insights by numerous faculty members collected there.
- Students are increasingly choosing to attend law school for the right reasons. They recognize that the point is not merely to gain high-paying jobs, but rather to bring justice to the world around them. Hats off, as well, to decision makers in the federal government who have worked over the years to develop new strategies for repaying student loans based on income, in order to help students and graduates pursue the work they believe to be import in the greater good.
- I give thanks for the strong and generous individuals who have stepped up to serve as presidents, deans and associate deans during this challenging time in legal education. It is not easy to juggle the many issues before us, ranging from internal budget challenges to external political pressures, to navigation of demands that law graduates be “practice ready.” My own list of those to whom and for whom I give thanks are UNC President Tom Ross (UNC JD), former UNC Law Dean Jack Boger (UNC JD), current UNC Law Martin Brinkley (UNC JD), and Associate Dean Jeff Hirsch, among many others around the country. Leadership jobs in this era are not easy ones. They take courage, smarts, and equinimity. We should all give thanks to those who provide important leadership in extremely challenging times.
- Congratulations to President Obama, a distinguished legal educator in his own right. I have never been prouder than when I see him call for thoughtful and careful resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. Those who came to the United States and met its indigenous peoples did so in part as refugees seeking to worship as they chose. Now, endangered people from Syria and the Middle East are similarly seeking a chance to raise their families in peace. We should respect the religious freedoms of others and their need for safe harbor in an increasingly dangerous world. We thank our colleague, President Obama, and wish him well in his efforts to bring reason to bear in this very emotional time.
- Please, if you can, post your own grounds for thanksgiving. This is my favorite holiday of the year, and I hope our collective sense of gratitude will live on every day of the year. Taking a moment to reflect and recognizing those who help us collectively move forward in the interest of justice is time well-spent.
The Carnegie Report, which criticized traditional legal education, designated three “apprenticeships” for educating today’s lawyers: 1) the “cognitive apprenticeship,” which focuses on expert knowledge and modes of thinking, 2) the “apprenticeship of practice,” which educates students in “the forms of expert practice shared by competent practitioners,” and 3) the “apprenticeship of identity and purpose,” which “introduces students to the purposes and attitudes that are guided by the values for which the professional community is responsible.” Since the Carnegie Report, numerous authors have published texts intended to develop “the apprenticeship of practice.” However, until now, there have been no texts that covered the “apprenticeship of identity and purpose.”
In “Developing Your Professional Identity: Creating Your Inner Lawyer” (2015), I have taken a new approach to learning professional ethics and professional identity. Traditionally, legal ethics professors have taught students the ethical rules, cases that interpreted the rules, and how to apply the rules to facts. In other words, legal ethics was taught exactly like contracts, torts, and property. Professional identity is more than knowing how to apply ethical rules. It is personal; it involves the inner person (your moral compass). Professional identity is a lawyer’s personal morality, values, decision-making process, and self-consciousness in relation to the practices of the legal profession. It provides the framework that a lawyer uses to make all a lawyer’s decisions.
My book takes a variety of approaches to help law students develop their professional identities. Chapter One asks students to take a close look at themselves by asking questions about their childhood, their college years, and who they are today. Chapters Two (Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner), Six (Overcoming Cognitive Biases), and Seven (Attorney Well-Being) give students the tools they will need to develop their professional identities. Chapter Two also introduces students to “practical wisdom,” an important approach to understanding and solving ethical problems. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 deal with professional identity within certain topics–the attorney-client relationship, the lawyer and society, and attorney advertising and solicitation of clients. Chapter Eight presents the legal profession’s and society’s views on lawyers and the legal profession. Chapter Nine focuses on the student’s role as a lawyer. It asks students what area of law they want to practice, how they will deal with clients, their place in the legal profession, standards of civility in the legal profession, and working with subordinates. Finally, Chapter Ten contains a variety of extended problems to help students further develop their professional identities.
Students can use this book either an independent study text, or professors can adopt it as a classroom text.
For too long now, legal education has focused on learning to think like a lawyer and memorizing legal rules. It is time to learn how to be a lawyer.
Editors of the ABA Journal announced today they have selected BEST PRACTICES FOR LEGAL EDUCATION as one of the top 100 best blogs for a legal audience.
“For us, at the ABA Journal, this isn’t just another award. We view our annual list as service to our readers, pointing them to a collection of some of the very best legal writing and commentary on the Web. Yes, we hope those selected are proud of it. But we also hope that our readers will recognize the list itself as another portal to some very vivid, informative and entertaining conversations about issues we all care about.”
Grateful appreciation to assistant editor Jessica Persaud for her strong administrative, communication and writing skills and to Eileen “Nina” Roepe for her technological troubleshooting. Congratulations also to all the collegial contributors who make this blog current and interesting!
About the ABA Journal:
The ABA Journal is the flagship magazine of the American Bar Association, and it is read by half of the nation’s 1.1 million lawyers every month. It covers the trends, people and finances of the legal profession from Wall Street to Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. ABAJournal.com features breaking legal news updated as it happens by staff reporters throughout every business day, a directory of more than 4,000 lawyer blogs, and the full contents of the magazine.
About the ABA:
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
Thank you to our readers who care deeply about legal education and who are interested in finding ways to improve it!
New York Proposes “Experiential Learning Requirements” as Condition of Licensure: CLEA and NYS Bar Committee Respond
Readers of this blog and followers of the NCBE’s expansion remember that this past Spring New York became the 16th state to adopt the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), changing its longstanding bar admission requirements. Many voices opposed adoption including the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) (see Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar (CLEAB) report 10-29-2014 and vote of House of Delegates), the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) and the Society for American Law Teachers (SALT). Despite these and other opposition voices, the proposal was adopted with the new changes going into effect for the July 2016 bar examination.
During discussion of the adoption of the UBE, the Court was encouraged to include clinical or experiential requirements for licensing so that lawyers admitted to the New York Bar would be ahead of the curve — a position I firmly support. On the opposite coast, California had been engaged in a multi-year process examining licensure and profession readiness which resulted in a proposal requiring 15 credits of experiential learning before admission. In response to the movement to incorporate experiential learning in bar admission, the New York State Court of Appeals formed a Task Force on Experiential Learning and Admission to the Bar. Just last month, that Taskforce requested comments on its proposal that
New York adopt a new mechanism for ensuring that all applicants for admission to the bar possess the requisite skills and are familiar with the professional values for effective, ethical and responsible practice. In light of New York’s diverse applicant pool, and in an effort to accommodate the varying educational backgrounds of applicants, the Task Force suggests five separate paths by which applicants for admission can demonstrate that they have satisfied the skills competency requirement.
The New York Law Journal examined the proposal in an article found here. In addition, the Honorable Judge Jenny Rivera, chair of the Taskforce attended a meeting of NYSBA’s Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar (CLEAB) to explain the proposal and answer questions.
It is heartening that the Court is concerned about and wants to require the development of essential lawyering skills and professional values acquisition. However, without more, Pathway 1 of the current proposal will not actually ensure that applicants to the bar experience the kind of skill development and value formation that the Taskforce desires. Pathway 1, referencing new ABA standards, requires schools to confirm that they have published their “plan for incorporating into their curriculum the skills and professional values that, in the school’s judgment, are required for its graduates’ basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession.” It also requires law schools to certify that law graduate applicants for admission “have sufficient competency in those skills and sufficient familiarity with those values” which are publicly available on the law school’s website. Although Judge Rivera believes that the certification process described in Pathway 1 can have some real bite, as pointed out in comments submitted by the Clinical Legal Education Association (11.9. 15 CLEA SUBMISSION ON EXPERIENTIAL REQUIREMENT ), Pathway 1 simply mirrors the experiential training requirements already mandated by the American Bar Association.
New York’s law school deans, not unexpectedly, submitted comments supporting the “flexibility” of Pathway 1. The CLEAB report to the Experiential Taskforce expressed concern that without additional content to Pathway 1 “little will be accomplished” by the proposal. And as one member of the NYS bar committee argued, “what law school is going to admit that one of its graduates did not acquire the skills or values promised on its website?”
In my opinion, the most important concern is whether applicants to the bar have ever represented or interacted with a client, or operated as a lawyer, in a live setting under guided, experienced supervision before admission. In its comment to the Taskforce, CLEA urges that a “three- credit clinical training requirement” be added for all J. D. applicants to the New York Bar. This makes sense. Law school clinics and faculty-supervised externships are designed to create the very kind of skill development and value acquisition with which the Court is concerned. And clinical faculty have developed the formative assessment tools to maximize skill and professional identity formation.
I am hopeful that, in its next iteration of the proposal, the Taskforce will heed CLEA and CLEAB’s comments and come back with recommendations that will ensure applicants for the bar are ready to engage in competent, ethical and professional representation of New York’s citizenry, corporations, and not–for–profits.
Filed under: Bar Exam, Best Practices, Uncategorized | Tagged: ABA, aba standards, Assessment, bar exam, Best Practices and Curriculum; Catalysts for Change, best practices for legal education, CLEA, clinical legal education, Court of appeals, law schools, law students, legal education, legal education reform, New York, NY BOLE | Leave a comment »
At the Conference on Building an Assessment Plan from the Ground Up, Professor Judith Daar of Whittier Law School presented her journey through assessment from “Reluctant Assessor” to a professor who values assessment. Professor Daar described how she first began thinking about assessment in the context of Assisted Reproductive Technology. She described for the audience the effects of statutory requirements that doctors be required to report multiple births resulting from IVF and the effect of that “assessment” in lowering IVF multiple births. Having seen that assessment makes a difference in medical settings, she was then ready to try some assessment in her own classroom. She created a pre- and post-test survey instrument in adverse possession unit that was intended to assess preparedness and comprehension. In creating this approach to assessment, she drew on the model required to award continuing education credit in medical education. While in the pre-test, many students accurately stated the holding in an adverse possession case, but after her class in which she criticized the court’s opinion, with the intent that students would learn critical analysis. However, her post-test demonstrated that many students thought that critique meant that they had misstated the holding in the case. Thus, she was surprised to see that she thought she was teaching a skill of critical analysis but the results caused her to realize that the students thought that in modeling that critique she was teaching substance. This caused her to realize how much students relied on the didactic of the classroom to “deliver the law” – that they do not trust their own ability to learn. A fascinating challenge !
More from the Building an Assessment Plan from the Ground Up Conference:
Dean Susan Duncan, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, presented from the dean’s perspective on assessment. She began her remarks by reinforcing the notion that all faculty have to be involved. She noted her concern that the conference is largely attended by legal writing professors and the disproportionate number of women at the conference and urged attendees to be sure that this does not become a service obligation that is “farmed out” to female faculty and legal writing faculty. She also noted the few number of deans in the audience, reiterating the message that deans must be fully supportive of assessment for it to be successful.
Dean Duncan noted that the new accreditation requirements (referring to both assessment and the experiential course requirement) will have an impact on resources, including:
• Devoting of new faculty positions to teach the experiential learning courses
• Paying stipends for field-work supervisors
• Training faculty for increased skills teaching or for better assessment
• Increasing teaching assistants (research assistants are a usual part of the law school environment, but she suggested that teaching assistants may become a more important part)
• Bringing in outside advisors or consultants
• Reducing teaching and service loads to assist faculty in transitioning to the new environment of assessment and skills instruction
In addition, the positive resource result may be that Deans can use the results from assessment plans in fundraising.
She suggested that one of the many benefits of assessment may be the increased formation of professional learning communities in law schools, in which faculty with shared interests will work together to share assessment practices and data.