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:


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


– 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?

Building on Best Practices and the Clinical Theory Workshop

Thought-provoking discussion at the NYLS Clinical Theory Workshop on Friday.

Definitions. Carrie Kaas reported on the “definitions” project of an Alliance for Experiential Education Committee chaired by Cindy Adcock of Charlotte. That committee is attempting to generate a common vocabulary around experiential learning — a set of common definitions for the overlapping and inconsistently used terms now in use. The Building on Best Practices project will need to decide whether to adopt that vocabulary, or not.

One of the most interesting, and challenging, tasks is to decide what differentiates an in-house clinic from an externship. Is it geography? Who pays the supervisor? A distinction rooted in pedagogy? Degree of independent role assumption? Or perhaps the distinction is no longer useful & and is ready to be junked?

I lean towards pedagogy & intensity of supervision, and degree of independent role assumption. Except when I lean towards junking the terminology and recognizing that we’re dealing with a continuum on multiple dimensions, as argued in Revision Quest: A Law School Guide to Designing Experiential Courses Involving Real Lawyering.

Sequencing. Cynthia Batt from Stetson presented her draft article on curriculum sequencing that is one of several independent articles spawned by the Building on Best Practices book project. Arguing for what I have termed the “layer cake” curriculum model, she conceded that the model is not necessarily the “only” or “best” model. But, she suggested, at schools where significant numbers of faculty are resistant to integrating experiential education throughout the curriculum, whether due to insecurity about lack of practice experience, fear of change, or other reasons, it is one that might have the best chance of implementation. Fair enough. A reminder to me that I’m at a school with relatively little resistance to experiential education.

Under the Radar Creativity. Cynthia made another comment that I’ve been pondering: “I am so impressed with my colleagues’ creativity, the kinds of work they are having students do that no one else knew about. Why are people so reluctant to talk about experiential education embedded in ‘traditional’ doctrinal education?”

That creativity certainly permeates my own law school. Based on a survey last spring, my colleagues are integrating experiential exercises into over 50 doctrinal courses. And they’ve created a long list of very creative simulation oriented courses, ranging from Venture Capital Deals to Supreme Court Decision Making to International Contracting.

So much of this creativity operates pretty “under the radar screen”. But I’m not sure it’s reluctance exactly. Lack of time? Lack of an appropriate forum? Understated, we-don’t-blow-our-own-horn Seattle manners?

I don’t know. But if our two schools at opposite corners of the country are representative, perhaps legal education has changed more than we know. Are we approaching a tipping point?

NY Chief Judge Lippman Announces Pro Bono Scholars Program For Final Semester of Law School

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of New York State’s highest court (the NYS Court of Appeals)  announced today the creation of a Pro Bono Scholars Program in which certain qualified law students may sit for the February Bar Exam during their third year of law school and then spend from March to May of their third year performing 500 or more hours of pro bono legal services. He made this announcement  as part of his  2014 “State of the Judiciary” address.  During what the Chief Judge describes as a “challenging economic environment and legal job market” for new law grads,  the Pro Bono Scholars Program is intended to facilitate “quality mentoring relationships” and provide “adequate practical training” under the direct supervision of a practicing lawyer, while “helping those who cannot afford legal services.” It also “builds upon New York’s 50 hours pro bono admissions requirement.”

Judge Lippman noted

“In New York, we are so fortunate to have stellar law schools, with innovative clinical programs and well-crafted curricula.”

The NYS Board of Law Examiners (BOLE) has already approved the initiative which “will be offered to all of New York’s 15 law schools, as well as other schools that wish to participate.”   Judge Lippman also noted that the supervision will “take place through educational programs developed by law schools and their clinics, and in partnerships with legal service providers, corporations and law firms.”

Senior Associate Judge Victoria A. Graffeo will head an Advisory Committee composed of law school deans from around the state to address “the logistics of an expanded February bar exam, ensure compliance with ABA standards, and develop a more precise timetable for the implementation of the various aspects of the Program.”  Judge Lippman praised Graffeo’s “tremendous expertise and formidable organizational and managerial skills” in ensuring a “smooth transition for the new protocols,” noting that Graffeo used the same strengths in leading the 50 hour pro bono requirement.

For an audio webcastand transcript of the address see:

SRC voted to eliminate Interpretation 305-3 which distinguishes paid employment from academic field placements

American Bar Association Accreditation Standard 305  addresses “study outside the classroom” and, in particular, field placement courses.  Interpretation 305-3 states:

A law school may not grant credit to a student for participation in a field placement program for which the student receives compensation. This Interpretation does not preclude reimbursement of reasonable out-of-pocket expenses related to the field placement.

The written submission by the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) filed January 31, 2014 (found here or on ABA site) argues

To revoke this regulation would give employers in paid field placements significantly more power both to control student work and to minimize the employer’s supervisory role, and would significantly reduce externship faculty control over the educational benefit of the placement.

This is a real concern. When I directed Albany’s field placement program, I often had to discuss with supervisors the difference between their treatment of academic interns and paid clerks. For example, throwing an inexperienced student into night court without direct attorney supervision may free up the evening of the harried assistant public defender or assistant prosecutor but it fails to teach the intern the constitutional way to practice law. And, if you pay the interns you may well be entitled to assign them to pick up your dry cleaning or walk your dog because your time is more valuable, however those activities are hardly educational. These were actual issues I addressed and was able to resolve in favor of the students educational experience because the employer had no money in the pot and needed to follow the requirements of the law school. That leverage will be undercut if interpretation 305(3) is removed.

I also agree with CLEA’s position that

……nothing suggests that field placement courses are displacing a large volume of paid part-time work for law students. To the contrary, pervasive anecdotal evidence suggests that employers are unable to pay and would prefer that students work without pay. Field placement directors (and placement offices) routinely field requests from employers who seek to offer unpaid work through a field placement experience. Nothing suggests an increased demand by employers to pay students who are also getting credit.

If anything, during difficult economic times, law students need the negotiating power of an experienced attorney and faculty member even more, since they are more vulnerable to exploitation by employers. I urge the Council to keep Interpretation 305 (3) in place to protect the educational quality of field placements. As discussed in another earlier post, during Thursday’s public hearing before Council members, Interpretation 305 (3) was discussed, including the applicability of the Fair Labor Standards Act, possible exploitation of students, and the problem of differing expectations regarding treatment of paid and unpaid interns. These issues are complicated and deserve further attention. With the SRC members deciding to complete the comprehensive review at the February meeting and leave issues which need more data and input for another day, it was surprising, in my opinion, to observe them move so quickly on the proposal to remove 305-3 without a more informed vetting of the issues.

Disclosure: I was recently elected co-vice president of CLEA. However, I was not responsible for the CLEA position letter on this interpretation. When writing on this blog, I do not represent CLEA.

Standards Review Committee Says “Our Work is Done” on Skills Requirement and Tenure and Security of Position: It’s in Council’s Hands Now

I am sitting in the lovely and warm Conrad Ballroom of the Conrad Hotel in windy, freezing Chicago. So far today, the Standards Review Committee (SRC) of the ABA Section on Legal Education has decided to leave some major issues in the hands of the Council on Legal Education. (As you know from my earlier post, the Council yesterday held the last of its public hearings on the proposed revisions posted for notice and comment.) The overall theme of today’s session appeared, at least to this observer, to be an urgency to finish the comprehensive view (which began in 2008) as soon as possible so that the Council can finish its work by June and the ABA House of Delegates can vote in August. Many times, it was noted that issues not currently resolved in this comprehensive review can be considered carefully by the committee going forward.

First, in previous meetings the SRC had voted to send up to the Council a proposed revision that require each student to take six credits of experiential courses. Last December, the Council decided to post for notice and comment an alternative proposal made by CLEA that would require 15 experience-based credits. Today, the Standards Review Committee decided not to further discuss the 15-credit proposal but to leave the choice to the Council without any revised recommendation from the SRC.

Similarly, with respect to security of position and tenure, the SRC decided that the very robust and interesting comments on the issue should be considered directly by the Council. SRC member and Southwestern Professor Catherine Carpenter in presenting a review of the recent comments noted the helpful law review article submitted on tenure and said that two interesting themes emerged from the recent comments: 1) whether academic freedom can truly be secured by any framework other than tenure; and 2) whether a time of financial exigency is the best time to change the rules of the game. The SRC and the Council members present agreed that the Council is in the best position to review the recent submissions and comments and take action.

With respect to Bar Passage revisions, the working committee reported that the continued resistance of some states to reporting individual pass results to law schools counseled against taking action at this time. In addition, they did not feel that they currently possessed all the data on state cut rates, pass rates and other “meta data” to create a properly informed recommendation. It was underscored that there are several important issues regarding bar passage that must be revised and/ or clarified before the standard should be amended. The committee will take up the matter again after the summer.

There were some changes made which I will report on later.

Council Hears Testimony on 405, experiential credits and pro bono

The past two days in frigid Chicago, members of the Council on Legal Education heard testimony from almost 20 speakers deeply interested in the  future of legal education and the education of future law students.  I was fortunate  to make it out of icy New Yorkto be able to attend yesterdays morning session.  I was impressed with the speakers’ deep knowledge of legal education and  their mastery of the intricacies of each of the multiple versions of proposed revisions.  Several speakers advocated strengthening the pro bono requirements of the standards.  Even more  argued in support of the proposal to require 15 credits of experiential courses.

The issue of whether students could receive academic credit for paid employment received serious attention.   DePaul Law Student Matthew Kerbis of the ABA’s Law Student Division requested that the Council change the standards to allow students to receive both credit and pay, while Professor Kate Kruse  of the Clinical Legal Education Association urged that the current rules properly acknowledge that paid employment and a properly structured academic experience involve different sets of goals, legal frameworks and expectations.  Judge Solomon Oliver, Chair of the Council,  asked about possible exploitation of  law students by employers.

SALT representative and University of Minnesota Professor Carol Chomsky,  American University’s Professor Ann Shalleck and Hamline’s Professor Kate Kruse, all tenured professors, each argued against the two alternatives to 405 now before the Council, which effectively eliminate tenure and security of position for future teachers.  They all agreed that the Council should support tenure and 405(c) security  of position so that legal educators may continue to exercise academic freedom,  to contribute educational perspectives to institutional governance, and to transform the outdated Langdellian model and integrate the professional development  of law students’ practical lawyering and reflective judgment into American Legal education. As American clinical faculty became more secure under tenure and 405 (c), they took risks in teaching, pioneering a pedagogy which has become a model nationally and internationally. However, for those without tenure, Kruse argued supported by a chart CLEA submitted, there is a demonstrable absence of meaningful participation.

The President of the Association for Legal Writing Directors, Anthony Niedwiecki argued in a similar vein  for the need to provide security of position and meaningful participation in governance to  legal writing professors.  In his testimony, Professor  Niedwiecki referred to a recent survey of legal writing faculty which ironically shows attacks on LRW professors at the very moment that the profession and accreditors are demanding law schools provide the multiple assessments and hands on skills development LRW professors do best.

In my experience, at my school, the warnings of Kruse, Shalleck, Chomsky and Niedwicki are not speculative. We are experiencing those attacks now.

For written comments (including my own) submitted to Standards Review see

Tune in later today for a report on the Standard Review Deliberations.

Teaching the Millennials, Part 2: The Classroom is Alive

My January 21 blog entry about how to best reach, and teach, the “miillennials” in law school, an issue raised in the fall 2013 article by Professors Benfer and Shanahan, highlighted several attributes of these students.  While noting that these students’ preferences are particularly well-suited to clinical education, I neglected to mention other aspects of the law school curriculum to which the students’ inclinations are well-suited.  Their orientation toward service, desire to contribute to the greater good, comfort with frequent and multiple forms of feedback, and enthusiasm for using real life opportunities for learning suggest that we can build into our curricula productive classroom engagements through a variety of experiential collaborations.   At UMass Law, we are taking advantage of these possibilities through a pilot course entitled “Community Research Project,” which satisfies our third semester Legal Skills requirement.  During the pilot semester this fall, Professor Shaun Spencer guided students to develop their lawyering skills and values in a real-world context.  Students in the class worked in teams to plan, organize, and complete a legal research and writing project involving constitutional, statutory, and empirical questions in support of an effort to amend the Massachusetts involuntary commitment statute.  Through this collaborative effort, students enhanced their skills in legal research, analysis, and writing; and developed skills in problem solving, interviewing, professionalism, and teamwork (they worked both on their own and in groups).  

Many of the suggestions made by Benfer and Shanahan can be tested in such collaborative projects. First, students’ experience in an ongoing process, requiring give-and-take with the “client” organization, can challenge their focus on short-term achievement (grades) rather than long-term success. They can experience critique of their work product not as destructive or insulting but as a way to help them become better lawyers by learning the importance of attentiveness to their clients’ needs.  They can experience the internet as just one of a number of tools to be used in their own law practices, learning over time that instant answers are often insufficient to help them develop the necessary lawyering skills of critical thinking.  

Courses such as the Community Research Project undoubtedly raise many issues for faculty, including how to choose the partner organizations, “who’s in charge?” — experiential learning/legal writing/skills directors/others, grading/assessment policies, students’ rights to object to subject-matter of projects, appropriate student preparation, use of journaling, and more.  Our faculty will be considering these issues soon as it decides whether to permanently incorporate this course into the curriculum.

For those interested in learning more about this project, Shaun and I will be discussing at a conference session, “Bringing Outside In: Social Justice Collaborations in the Legal Writing Curriculum,” this June 29 in Philadelphia during a one-day workshop on Social Justice Collaborations in the Legal Writing Curriculum, just before the start of the Legal Writing Institute Conference. 




Metaphors for an Integrated Curriculum

Between the Building on Best Practices book project and a new role this year as Chair of Curricular Innovation, I’m pondering what we mean by integrating our curriculum. I’ve been playing with potential metaphors. Permeable box? Didn’t resonate. Suitcase — still playing with that one. Garden — potential but maybe too complicated for everyday conversation.

One that seems to work for many people — my dean loves it! — is a cake metaphor. Two contrasting images this metaphor brings up:

Think of the curriculum as a layer cake:
– in the first year we teach vocabulary, basic concepts, legal analysis and argumentation
– in the second year add in some simulation based skills courses like interviewing and counseling, negotiations, trial advocacy.
– in the third year, add real experiences representing clients, or capstone courses bringing together a range of substantive material, skills and opportunities for professional formation.

Or view it as a marble cake: incorporate each of the different aspects of legal education throughout all three years of the curriculum — building the knowledge foundation, developing a professional identity, learning professional skills, acting in role, including real experiences with clients.

I’m a fan of the marble cake myself. (Or perhaps it’s almond cake with chunks of almond paste & toasted almonds –oh, the perils of blogging while hungry.) If we emphasize only 1 side of becoming a lawyer in the first year — the intellectual, analytical side — we lose, or skew, too many of our students.

I’ve argued for years that “early and often” for clinics and other real experiential opportunities is the best strategy to give students context for their learning to help them understand and remember, maintain their passion (or enthusiasm, if you prefer), and teach lawyering skills. Colleagues such as Russell Engler and Susan Brooks reach similar conclusions.

Whichever approach to curriculum you prefer, does the cake metaphor help you in understanding our choices?

Law Firm Partners: Seeing the Future

In “A Lawyer and Partner, and Also Bankrupt,” James B. Stewart of the New York Times [ ] yesterday contextualized the plight, even for large-firm lawyers, of the constraining forces in the legal profession, while linking the fall-off in law school applications to this “widespread malaise.”   Stewart highlights the story of Gregory M. Owens, a 55 year-old successful Wall Street lawyer and former partner at Dewey, Ballantine, Bushby, Palmer & Wood, and after a merger, Dewey & Leoeuf.  Mr. Owens, who still works at a “eminent global law firm,” White & Case, has just filed for bankruptcy after being demoted to a nonequity “service” partner.  Service partners neither share the risks nor rewards of the law practices and generally do not have their own clients; thus, their salaries are held to levels far beneath those of equity partners.  When Mr. Owens declared bankruptcy, his listed annual salary $375,000 a year and, while clearly more than that earned by most, it is not sufficient to satisfy his New York City-based expenses, which include upwards of $10,000/month in child support and alimony, $7,500/month rent, and all the rest.

The recent growth of the service or nonequity partner (by the end of 2012, 84% of the largest 200 law firms maintained service partners, up 20% since 2000) is no doubt troubling for aspiring large-firm lawyers.  It signals that these firms are having trouble maintaining the high salaries of the lawyers already in their firms.  The service partners are the most vulnerable of all, as they are often not the rainmakers, and “not economically viable,” according to an expert in law firm management.  Scott Westfahl, professor of practice and director of executive education at Harvard Law School, suggests that, in order to protect their job security, these law firm employees must develop a “deep expertise that’s hard to find” elsewhere.   Professor Westfahl warns that, even with this additional expertise, “[t]here’s no job security”  –   even full equity partners are under growing pressure by clients who are demanding more accountability, resulting in more and more partners being “de-equitized.”

One suggestion offered by an equity partner interviewed for this article for those in practice today: periodically reinvent yourself and be prepared to work “more hours than rainmakers” to justify maintaining high salaries.

Given this current picture of the large law firm, what other suggestions might be gained from Mr. Owens’ story, for those of us involved in legal education as either professors or potential law students?  Perhaps we all might realize that “following the money” may not necessarily make for a successful career.  Maybe if law professors structured their curricula to support new lawyers who “follow the people” — both individuals and small business people in our communities who need but cannot afford legal assistance — these new lawyers would see that they could build satisfying lives in the law, ones that, while not necessarily supporting staggering material wealth, would nonetheless support interesting and appreciative clients, constructive and supportive relations with colleagues, gratifying intellectual challenges, a decent way of life, and constructive participation in our society.

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.”


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