What Advice Would You Give to Your Students? By: John Lande

Law professors want their students to succeed in navigating the challenging path of law school and legal practice.  We embed our advice in our courses and other interactions with students.  Usually, we don’t have the chance to impart our wisdom systematically and get to convey only bits and pieces here and there.

Recently, I compiled my advice into a single article that I hope many students read and benefit from.  I suspect that most professors and administrators would agree with virtually all of my suggestions.  So you might want to assign it in your courses if appropriate, either as required or recommended reading.  It is also appropriate for orientation programs, so you might pass this along to the people who organize the program at your school.

Since 2004, I have been teaching a required 1L course at the University of Missouri:  Lawyering:  Problem-Solving and Dispute Resolution.  Every year, for the first day of class, we would read Stephen D. Easton, My Last Lecture: Unsolicited Advice for Future and Current Lawyers, 56 S.C. L. Rev. 229 (2004).  I LOVE that article, which expresses really honest, practical advice with a good spirit.

I was asked to write an article to celebrate my retirement in an article collecting my ideas.  So I drafted My Last Lecture: More Unsolicited Advice for Future and Current Lawyers, which will appear next year in the Journal of Dispute Resolution.

If you think that your students would benefit from it, please let them know about it.  If I express advice you would give, you get the benefit of repetition, essentially saying, “See – it’s not just me.  Someone who sounds impressive says the same things.”

I still have a chance to revise the article, so if you have any suggestions (especially if you might assign this in the future and want me to include things to urge your students), please let me know by September 14.

John Lande


Thought Provoking Resources for Best Practices Blog Readers

I have had the chance to learn about legal and professional education from some of the best.  I wanted to take this opportunity to share some related resources with readers of this blog.  Each of the resources here is free, and each amply rewards readers who need less than five minutes to scan for interesting and thought-provoking content.

Law School Vibe. A fairly new, thought-provoking blog is one called “law school vibe” developed as a team effort by colleagues at the University of New South Wales School of Law in Sydney, Australia.  During my research leave “down under” I learned a great deal from the smart and innovative educators there.  Here’s the address:  https://lawschoolvibe.wordpress.com/  It’s easy to subscribe and there are many excellent posts (by bloggers Alex Steel, Colin Picker, Justine Rogers, Pru Vines, and Carolyn Penfold among others.  Topics have included student collaboration, how to teach statutory interpretation, the role of “content for all,” new approaches to international education, ethical issues (Does “Just Call Saul” translate abroad?  How should academics deal with plagiarism?), and more.  Rather than simply providing information, this blog asks engaging questions that are worthy of reflection and conversation with colleagues.  Posts arrive to subscribers about every two weeks.  Make it a habit to read these engaging thoughts.

Tomorrow’s Professor.  The Tomorrow’s Professor is a wonderful listserv that typically arrives twice a week from Stanford University’s Engineering Professor Rick Reis.  Here’s the address for those who would like to subscribe:  https://tomprof.stanford.edu/ Billed as “online faculty development,” it definitely delivers the goods for all of us who are interested in higher education, not just junior faculty or those in the sciences.  Posts focus on teaching and learning, research, academic careers, the academy, and graduate students.  Most posts are drawn (with permission) from other sources so readers often have the benefit of a quick summary or chapter excerpt from literature they would likely not otherwise encounter.  Recent posts include coverage of “desirable difficulties,” “capstone courses,” academics as “public intellectuals,” and cross-cultural mentoring among other things.  In some ways the Best Practices blog seeks to create a similar resource for legal educators, but why stop there?  Enrich your reading and learn something from those with complementary expertise.

Inside Higher Education.  Inside Higher Education (available at https://www.insidehighered.com/ ) is a terrific resource for those interested in following trends affecting higher education more generally.  This on-line resource offers daily summaries of this on-line publication’s coverage of developments affecting higher education.  The focus is a bit different from the resources above, but coverage should appeal particularly to those interested in or currently serving in leadership positions.  Enticing recent posts include “how to kill committee meetings,” and that’s only the start.  Sign up for free daily news summaries.

How About You?  What are your favorite sources of insight about teaching and learning, or about changing patterns of higher education more generally?  Share them with our readers. If you have time before the semester gets too frantic, offer brief summaries of your favorite resources such as those included here.

What Am I Doing Here?

I force my students to reflect. The clinical students must submit a written piece at Orientation entitled “What Am I Doing Here?” and in my lecture course, I give written assignments early in the semester forcing them to ponder the theories behind Supreme Court decisions and the relevance to those in their own lives.  But what about me? What good is reflective learning without reflective teaching?

Like many of you, I suspect, reflection is an implicit and sometimes even explicit aspect of my pedagogy. I set learning outcomes.  I review best practices scholarship and refine my plans accordingly. I explore new material. I google. It’s a large, messy, fun sandbox we play in.

But as summer draws to its inevitable close, I find myself more drawn to the pause that reflection can invite. As teachers, we are encouraged to pause, at least ostensibly.  Semesters have endings, followed by “breaks”.  Education is full of built-in pauses.  What we do during those pauses, I think, matters much more than we realize. And I say that knowing that many of you, also like me, don’t have the “full stop” experience during the summer that some have.  Clinical teaching means client work, and direct representation of individual clients in state trial court litigation means no full stops.  Summer is just a season like the other three. Also it’s family law–enough said.

So when comes the pause?  Whenever it can.  In my world, it comes in the space between my deep inhales and exhales during tough moments in court.  Some days this summer it came early in the day, with coffee and the newspaper on my front porch.  And sometimes the pause was several days long, as vacations should be.  But at some point, every day, I pause deliberately to practice mindful movement or stillness, or a little of both.  Simply put, I practice yoga and meditation.  New Age? Maybe.  Relevant to my health? Absolutely.  Related to law teaching? Well, that’s the thing.

I found myself this past week adding more and more references to mindfulness, to reflection, and to just slowing down and pausing to savor moments, to my syllabus and my PowerPoints for class. My students are getting a little neuroscience about brain chemistry’s link to mindful reflection with their Family Law this semester.

I’ve been passionate about this for several years, but my clarity about the links between science and law grows constantly.  Aren’t we better students of anything when we harness our brain’s maximum power?  And that’s what mindfulness does–the science clearly shows it changes your brain for the better.  You’re a better learner, and a better teacher.  And what about stewards of the law–aren’t we better legal advocates if we are calmer, more open to legal theory, and more effective at conflict resolution?

This week I’ll share some of the science with my students, and then I’ll explain my new classroom rules: no phones, no computers, and we start each class with a moment of silence.  Then we’ll crack the new edition of the Bluebook and be off to the races.  That’s what we’re doing here.

Pepperdine’s proactive approach to the California Proposal

EXCELLENT Post from Pepperdine’s’ Jeff Baker over on Clinical Law Prof Blog on their proactive approach to the California proposal! Congratulations Pepperdine!

Pepperdine adopted these standards as graduation requirements beginning with the Class of 2017, “in advance of the rules’ formal enactment, to ensure that our students and our school are prepared and to accomplish these objectives well and eagerly.  We are actively building capacity in our program of clinical education, adding clinics, creating practicums, developing new experiential opportunities across every law school center, examining our curriculum, and building a flexible, compliant program to generate pro bono opportunities for students.   The new rules have given us great incentive to innovate and adapt, with a renewed focus on professional formation, and to live into our own mission.”

Jeff also mentioned that he spoke at a panel last year at Pepperdine’s Judicial Clerkship Institute”  where there was “much discussion about experiences students should seek and receive to prepare for elite practices and judicial clerkships,”  The consensus from judges, bar leaders and academics at that conference?

students need more courses and experiences that will generate wisdom, creativity, humility, integrity, diligence and excellence, within a pervasive understanding of lawyers’ roles and obligations to society.

Justice Jon Streeter, formerly president of the California Bar and chair of TFARR “expressed confidence and optimism that the rules will be adopted.”

It sounds like California will do the right thing in changing times when human nature resists change…

What’s going on in California? “TFARR- recommended” 15 credits of competency training

For those who did not closely follow the California State Bar debate on the requirement of 15 credits of competency training for bar admission (the work of the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform, or “TFARR”), I summarize the current status.  (Although I am currently co-prez of the Clinical Legal Education Association, known as CLEA, this post is not written with that hat on.)  This is my own thinking, albeit, informed by the excellent work of the CLEA Advocacy committee.

The TFARR process was two-staged, over a three year period, with opportunities for public comment throughout. CLEA  participated in that process and submitted five separate comments on the proposals that are available at http://www.cleaweb.org/advocacy under “Briefs and Other Advocacy” (documents 4-8).

In the end, TFARR recommended 15 credits of competency training which can be achieved in a variety of ways (in addition to how experiential credits can be earned under the new ABA regulations), and which include six credits of summer work. You can read the TFARR Phase II Final Report  at: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/AboutUs/PublicComment/Archives/2014PublicComment/201411.aspx

The process was complete in November, 2014, with final TFARR recommendations to the State Bar Board of Trustees (that responded to public comments) and unanimous adoption by the Board: http://board.calbar.ca.gov/Agenda.aspx?id=10891&tid=0&show=100008800&s=true#10013881 (agenda item 113). The TFARR Phase II FInal Report represents a compromise based on extensive input.

Lately, some confusion has arisen because of a letter posted to the AALS website authored by a non-standing committee of Deans.  The confusion arises because:

  1. Neither AALS nor this special Dean’s committee ever participated in the two stage TFARR process and so appear to be sort of “johnny come latelys, ” and
  2. The letter mistakenly focuses on an earlier draft of the final proposal failing to recognize the compromises already reached in the final proposal.

I understand that there are efforts underway to correct the confusion which makes me happy since the Deans’ letter is signed by two people whom I have long admired in a variety of contexts.

Other blogs are already exploring the 15 credit  proposal and its interesting and creative approach. For example,   “Kudos to California”  What do our readers think?

Gender and Lawyers’ Worklives

As we think about how to improve legal education, it’s always helpful to understand  our students, their careers, and what they value.   UW Law reference librarian Mary Whisner shared this item, that I missed when it initially came out:

Harvard Study: Women Lawyers Work More Than Men,

Bloomberg BNA Big Law Business, May 12, 2015

Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession released the results of a widespread survey of its graduates which suggests women work more hours on average than men, among other potentially myth-busting findings.

Through a survey of HLS graduates from the classes of 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2000 and other research, it provides a detailed portrait of the gender gap within the legal profession, including all the ways women have advanced or failed to advance.

. . .


The study also finds the women graduates satisfied  with the substance of their work, but dissatisfied with their compensation, while the reverse is true for men.

The full study (86 pp.) is David B. Wilkins et al., The Women and Men of Harvard Law School: Preliminary Results from the HLS Career Study (2015).

Would these findings about Harvard Law grads would hold true for lawyers generally.  If so, are there any implications for legal education?

Here’s one speculation:  Perhaps men experience more cultural push towards financial security and success in the form of work in Big Law. They might also experience less cultural encouragement toward emotional self-awareness, introspection about purpose in life,  and a service orientation. If so, the result might be that more men focus on external motivations and pursue the Big Law path,  even when it’s a bad fit with their interests, skills and values. They then find themselves less satisfied with the substance of their work. (And, given gender myths about women’s lesser commitment to the workforce, the men might be able to meet expectations with fewer hours.)  If so, legal education would be well advised to improve efforts to help students develop their professional identify, focusing both  on developing students understanding of lawyers work in different settings, and on students’ own talents, interests and values.

Another speculation:  Perhaps women tend to be less confident about the quality of their work and log more hours as a result.  Legal education could help them appreciate their own talents and skill level.

Other thoughts?

Lawyers Need “Soft Skills”—So Why Aren’t Law Schools Teaching Them?

There can be little doubt that law schools are largely proficient in teaching “hard skills” such as knowledge of the law, legal analysis, research, writing, and drafting. But what about “soft skills”—the general set of skills which influence how people interact, such as communication, leadership, critical thinking, confidence, team building, time management, creativity, public speaking, and problem solving, just to name a few? Most can agree that these skills are needed to be a successful lawyer, but we can also probably agree that they are not being taught in law school.
Other professions have been teaching and using these skills for some time while law schools have been slow to embrace them. Business and medicine are just two examples. If we agree that proficiency in these skills would not only make for happier clients but also more productive working relationships, why not make the teaching of these skills part of our curriculum? Perhaps some lawyers, professors, and students believe that you are either born with these skills or not—and that no specific training is needed to improve them. However, that is simply not true. Research proves that it is possible to develop these skills just as one can develop other skills. As noted in the ABA’s LawPractice Today, “[i]t is astounding that [soft skills] are not taught in law school, and that fact only serves to increase the responsibilities of law firms to create and implement training initiatives that focus on developing an attorney’s service-oriented skills… [a]nd so law firms have begun to teaching these skills—so why shouldn’t law schools?”
The question, of course is how to teach them. I, along with two of my colleagues, am working on a book aimed at bridging this gap by providing information law school professors can use to teach important skills—such as problem solving, creativity, and mindfulness, to their students. While some resources certainly exist, more are needed, along with the recognition of the importance of the skills and a willingness to teach them.


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