The ABA Council decided to send out for comment a proposal to increase the requirement for clinics, simulations or externships to 15 credits. This is a big surprise of those of us following the ABA Council’s deliberations of the changes to its standards regarding the Program of Legal Education. Over the summer, the decision was made to circulate for comment a proposal requiring 6 credits.
UC Hastings Dean Frank Wu has an interesting article in Above the Law about Law Schools. He mentions three problems with legal education: (1) a glut of lawyers in today’s market; (2) high cost; (3) insufficient training in practical skills.
Do you agree? Would you add anything to the list?
School Missions & Visions
By: Professor Pamela Armstrong
List of goals that applicants to law school want to fulfill (in no special order and some may not apply to every student):
- I want to see Justice done.
- I want to stand for the helpless.
- I want to belong to a profession, not an industry.
- I want to move or change the way our society conceptualizes “law” to account for the amalgam of cultures in our society.
- I want to be able to put our culture’s ideas about “rule of law” against other cultures’ ideas, compare and maybe push for growth or something better.
- I want to challenge the adversarial nature of our system as having gone too far from being representative to something else, and I need a way to expand my thinking.
- I want to be part of the shrinking “market place of ideas.”
Sub-needs or sub-wants – the skills applicants would like to develop:
- I want to find a better way to solve problems and disputes.
- I want to think critically so that I can see the fallacies in positions, be aware of inherent inconsistencies in and weak foundations for ideas, and be prepared to stand up and challenge proponents of such flawed arguments.
- I want to be able to move seamlessly between the legal regimes of many cultures.
- I want to make my profession better than the generation before me.
Following on some recent discussions about disruption and legal education, I’d like to solicit help from the community in determining what are the “jobs to be done” in legal education?
HBS Professor Clay Christensen tells us that a central place to begin an analysis of disruptive innovation is with the question: What jobs do our customers want us to do for them? In other words, what needs arise in our customers lives that they look to us to meet/satisfy? Here is a relevant article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stephenwunker/2012/02/07/six-steps-to-put-christensens-jobs-to-be-done-theory-into-practice/
I think that once the legal academy gets a good handle on this question, it may help us figure out how to reform legal education in light of the recent dramatic changes in market conditions.
I am still forming my ideas on this, so am looking to start a discussion and for feedback. The more I think about it, we actually may have to address two questions, one focused on law school applicants and the second on law school students. Or maybe the law school student questions are a sub-category of the overarching law school applicant questions. That still needs to be fleshed out.
Here is my draft list of jobs that applicants to law school need to be done (in no special order and some may not apply to every student):
- I need something respectable to do after college
- I need to feel good about myself (to feel smart, special, elite)
- I need a place where I can enjoy spending time with my friends/people who share the same ideas/talents/perspectives as I do
- I need to become qualified to sit for a bar exam/ to become an entry level lawyer
- I need to feel part of a larger community/network
- I need to figure out how to use my gifts/talents for a fulfilling career (I am not a math, science type, so medical school, computer science, engineering, are not for me)
- I need to find a career that will enable the lifestyle I anticipate for myself and my family
Each of the above needs has sub-needs. For example: “I need to become qualified for the bar/ to become an entry level lawyer” has lots of sub-needs, such as:
- I need to learn how to think like a lawyer
- I need to learn fundamental legal concepts and theories
- I need to learn the laws and legal theories that are relevant to my field of interest
- I need to begin for form a professional identity
- I need to learn the practical skills and professional values of lawyering
- I need to learn how to conduct legal research
- I need to learn how to write like a lawyer . . .
- I need to find a job in my field
- I need to begin to meet lawyers in the community in which I will work
I realize that many students may not independently identify these are needs. What does that mean for the “jobs to be done” analysis? Is education different in the sense that professional students may not always know their needs? I’d also like guidance on how that is handled in the analysis.
Thanks in advance for any guidance, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. I hope that this sparks a fruitful discussion and look forward to hearing your feedback.
Filed under: Best Practices & Curriculum, Catalysts For Change | Tagged: Clayton Christensen, disruption, jobs to be done, law school, law students, legal education, Pistone, reforming legal education | 1 Comment »
Our DC colleagues are leading a charge to change student practice rules to afford additional practice-related experiences for law students. Are other groups considering similar proposals? http://bit.ly/HIWCnW
In April of this year, Kaplan Test Prep did a survey of 200 pre-law students. Fifty percent of those students stated that they do not intend to use their future law degree in a traditional legal field. If this statistic extrapolates out to the larger law student population, we have a generation of law students of which only half will ever be practicing lawyers. So if half of law students do not intend on ever practicing law in a traditional way at a traditional firm—what is their intention? The answer is as varied and individualized as our law student population. The answer is also forcing a revitalization of legal education and at no time has legal education ever been accused of changing too quickly.
I often hear the term “alternative legal careers” being thrown around but I am not sure that this has ever been readily defined. Does it mean people who have not passed the bar? Or those in compliance positions, entry-level solo practitioners, or even legal educators? Or those who don’t work at a law firm? The answer to these questions and other questions is yes.
There is a lot of chatter about the definition and assessment of the jobs law students obtain after graduation. Back in 2011, the ABA, in conjunction with NALP, came up with the category of “J.D. advantage” to describe jobs that specifically do not require bar passage but do utilize skills learned in law school. The employers might have preferred candidates with a J.D. (or even required a J.D.), and the job is one in which the J.D. provided a demonstrable advantage to obtaining and/or performing the job. Interest in these jobs skyrocketed as the market fell, with more and more students seeking the J.D.-preferred positions when there were many less traditional positions available. In fact, in 2011, one in every seven jobs taken by new law graduates fell into the J.D. advantage category. (NALP Bulletin, May 2013).
In my opinion, the category and even the term “J.D. advantage” is a bunch of rubbish. Graduates in J.D. advantage jobs are sometimes every bit of lawyers as their brethren at firms and other traditional jobs. Today, lots of associate work and especially first-year associate work can rarely be achieved only by a barred attorney. I believe the legal community and its governing body the ABA are finally just coming to the recognition of what we already know—the J.D. is an agile and flexible tool that can be utilized in many forums.
Let’s face it, the opportunities on the traditional path for new law graduates are shrinking. Therefore, all professional opportunities can and should be defined under “working” and not put under some other nomenclature of J.D. advantage. There are few professional pursuits that would not value the analytical thinking and knowledge of the law and ethics that law school offers. This new category describing any deviation from the traditional path is not required and seems to paint in broad strokes a picture of these jobs as “lesser.” Jobs outside law firm associate positions are in no way less, and in some cases can offer much more.
Here in Brooklyn, there is a hub of a new technology age guided by entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. If a new graduate were to join a start-up business at a local incubator, is that a J.D.-preferred job? After all, while the graduate may not be doing legal work day-to-day, you can be sure that their legal education will be of huge use and influence in the new venture. In fact, you can bet that contracts and other issues involving the law would find their way to the law graduate’s desk rather than another employee. How do we say this is not a law job but a J.D. advantage, or perhaps because the employer did not specify—not even J.D. advantage.
Compliance is another area where the J.D. advantage term is overused. As recently as 10 years ago compliance positions were considered quasi-legal jobs. However, as regulation became more intricate, more and more J.D.s were hired into these roles at all levels. Today, most new hires in the compliance world are J.D.s. In fact, this is a huge and lucrative area of growth for the law profession. However, under the ABA rules, these are J.D. advantage jobs rather than legal jobs.
So here is what we know—there are fewer jobs in traditional legal roles for entry-level attorneys. New graduates are seeking out different opportunities due to fewer traditional positions and a real desire to practice/work in non-traditional forums. The ABA has decided to define any job without a traditional title—associate, staff attorney, assistant D.A., etc.—as something other than a lawyer. So where do we go from here? We need to change legal education and the ABA to fit the new reality.
Law schools have already begun a huge era of revitalization of legal education—some might say an overhaul. Some of these changes are meant to streamline legal education, others to provide more practical training. However, there is another factor that is changing law school: teaching to and preparing the ever-growing population of graduates that do not wish to practice in a traditional forum. Brooklyn Law School teaches a business boot camp and has a clinic that incubates new businesses in all facets, not just legal. There are other law schools that have language classes and compliance courses that are not rooted in the law.
These types of endeavors will help entering law students navigate the business world while utilizing their legal education. This string of classes shows a new multidisciplinary approach in legal education. The more well-rounded student is coveted by traditional and alternative employers alike. The old yard-stick used to measure future success was academic prowess. That is slowly changing as employers of all ilks realize that they need to incorporate softer skills and business skills as well as legal skills to keep their organizations afloat. Being a knowledgeable and ethical attorney is no longer enough to satisfy today’s legal market.
We are facing a turning point in the legal market. Law students are not focused on the same goals as a generation ago, as evidenced by the Kaplan survey cited at the beginning of this article. They are seeking out a new type of legal career that is not rooted in the traditional ways and definitions of law practice. The institutions of the legal market need to accept and understand that one way of using a law degree is no less than another. Law schools have to prepare these students as well as they do those engaged in the more traditional practices. Thankfully, law schools seem to be rising to that challenge.
Jill Backer is associate director for employer relations at Brooklyn Law School.
Filed under: Best Practices & Curriculum, First Year Law School Innovations, Teaching Methodology | Tagged: Alternative Careers, American Bar Association, law students, Lawyer, legal education | 2 Comments »
Below are a few infographics that illustrate different ways that technology is impacting education for both students and teachers:
How are college students using technology?
Source Credit BachelorsDegreeOnline
What about ebooks?
Source Credit Schools.com
Interesting info on technology use:
Source Credit LearnStuff
Each of these infographics have shown how technology will continue to be a large part of learning and teaching.
A barrier to developing, improving, or sharing our assessment practices is the confusion surrounding the vocabulary of assessment. Whenever it occurs or by whatever method, assessment is simply the process of discovering what and how well students have learned and then using that information to improve. One can quickly become mired in a sea of words that feel like jargon, with assumptions that confuse and distort the real meaning of this otherwise familiar practice of all good instructors. Part of the problem is that the language is not our own and so, by its very adoption, reinforces the impression that assessment is an intrusion into our classrooms. Because these confusions are so destructive to the ability of an institution to move forward with assessment, we must either work to make this vocabulary our own or develop a different vocabulary for the same ideas.
Even though discovering what students have learned in order to improve teaching is a natural part of a good teacher’s practice, law schools are having difficulty in knowing exactly what this talk of assessment means. Faculty frequently mistake outcomes assessment for something more complex, unusual, or even sinister. “Assessment” becomes confused with “evaluation” (as in program or teacher evaluation) or “standardized testing,” and, before long, we are thinking of K-12 school district funding decisions based a “No Child Left Behind” external control of education.
There is a fundamental difference between assessing student learning for the purposes of program or teacher evaluation and assessing student learning for the purposes of improving that learning. If we are assessing for accountability, we collect data (e.g., pass rates) about students learning outcomes that we do not necessarily control (e.g. bar exams) so that we can report that data to external constituencies (e.g. accreditors). In contrast, if we are assessing for student learning, we observe evidence (e.g., essays, performances) of student learning outcomes that we have designed ourselves so that we can interpret and use that evidence to improve the learning of our students. When accountability to those outside the learning process is the driving force behind assessment, the temptation may be to assess only those learning outcomes that we know students have mastered and avoid looking for places where learning could be significantly improved. We might skew our teaching and curricula away from learning outcomes we truly care about to more closely match the learning outcomes we believe outsiders consider important. Of course that already does happen to some degree. The influence of ABA standards of accreditation and bar examinations on curricula is so obvious we may not even recognize the degree to which our faculty control of the program of legal education is directed by these learning outcomes and assessment methods.
It is against this backdrop of fear that some law teachers approach the topic of outcomes assessment. However, resisting assessment out of a concern that others will rob law faculty of their freedom means giving up one of the most powerful tools to protect that freedom. If a faculty can clearly communicate the learning goals they have for their students, and can demonstrate how their program of legal education leads to more students accomplishing those learning goals at higher levels of mastery, that proof of learning can become powerful tool for demonstrating accountability: to the students, the academy, the bar, and the public. That is not to say that assessment for accountability will not be required or should not be undertaken with seriousness of purpose and honesty in method. Assessment for improving student learning, however, should be just as important, if not more so, so that we can be accountable to ourselves and our students.
Filed under: Best Practices & Curriculum, Best Practices, Outcomes & Assessment Techniques | Tagged: Educational aims and objectives, Educational assessment, law students, legal education | Leave a Comment »
Colleagues, please read this article by Clay Christensen and his colleagues. As law professors, we need to understand how the practice of law is changing. Only if we understand it can we best prepare our students for the world they are entering and will be practicing in going forward. It talks about the move from BigLaw to NewLaw, and sees more evolution along the lines of Axion, AdvanceLaw, Lawyers on Demand, all within the scope of BigLaw.
Then let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Concerns about the impact of the ABA proposed revised accreditation standards governing faculty on diversity on law faculty and on diversity of thought have been raised eloquently in a Law Professors Letter to the ABA on Tenure that has circulated on the minority and clinic listservs as well as in other areas. The deadline for signing onto the letter is this Monday October 7th, You can sign here:
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tagged: ABA Council on Legal Education, ABA STANDARDS REVIEW, cultural competence, diversity, faculty, faculty tenure, law faculty, law schools, legal education | 1 Comment »
It is not surprising that President Obama wants to decrease the cost of higher education and make it more affordable for the average American family. Nor is it surprising that he floated the idea of decreasing cost by decreasing the number of years a law student has to PAY for school as reported by the New York Times here. Without a full understanding of all the issues, that often appears to be a sensible idea. What is surprising is that the President confuses unpaid interning with a “clinical experience.” As we know from the medical and other professional settings, clinical experience is NOT the same as allowing barely trained law students to “HAVE AT IT” in a practice setting. Nor is every environment appropriate for clinical training and supervision. The whole point of “clinical education” is supervision, feedback, mentoring, and learning to learn from observation, experience and mistakes.
Another problem with the President’s “shoot from the hip” comment, is that the very reason that new law students can’t find jobs is the same reason today’s law firms are NOT appropriate for the kind of mentoring which was done in days of yore. As a member of the New York State Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession and a chair of the Education and Training Subcommittee, I learned from legal employers and their clients that the market-driven, competitive nature of private industry today has created a situation in which clients no longer want to pay for the on-the-job training of new attorneys. More senior attorneys are so tightly time-managed relative to billable hours that they have significantly less hours and energy to mentor, supervise and help form new attorneys. That’s where law schools have added value for graduates and provided the support and individual attention that tomorrow’s lawyers need through clinical programs (both in-house and in the field). If the President wants to add his significant heft to this debate, he should do so in a more nuanced and effective manner than making an off the cuff comment.
Filed under: Best Practices & Curriculum, Best Practices for Institutional Effectiveness, Uncategorized | Tagged: clinical legal education, experiential learning, law students, legal education, legal education reform, Obama | 10 Comments »
ABA COUNCIL ELIMINATES ANY MEANINGFUL SECURITY OF POSITION FOR FACULTY AND TURNS ITS BACK ON EXPERIENTIAL FACULTY
As reported last week here, the ABA Council on Legal Education met in San Francisco to review proposed revisions to law school accreditation standards. The ABA reviewed four proposals sent to them by the Standards Review Committee (which I described in an earlier post here) and which were intended to address faculty competence, academic freedom and governance rights. The Council sent out for notice and comment two of the four proposals. Some commentators have suggested that one of the adopted proposals includes some security of position and the other does not. However, a closer look suggests that neither proposal affords any meaningful security of position. see National Law Journal
The alternative that mentions security of position states that:
“(d) A law school shall afford all full-time faculty members a form of security of position sufficient to ensure academic freedom and attraction and retention of a competent full-time faculty (emphasis added).”
At first glance, I optimistically thought “Maybe ensuring a competent full-time faculty would require something beyond at-will employment?” However, I was reminded by a professional colleague that this proposal is identical to the current provision for legal writing professors, which has been interpreted to permit at-will contracts as long as the teachers are “competent,” Undeterred in my optimism, I thought “Well ensuring academic freedom certainly needs to ensure some job security especially for folks like clinicians who have been attacked repeatedly for representing the powerless against the moneyed members of our society, right?” However, the ABA interprets that same language in the clinical context to permit one-year renewable contracts, as long as the institution has a “policy” on academic freedom,
As Amy Poehler would say “Really!1?! Really!?!” Is that really the kind of job security that will fill you with confidence in advocating on behalf of seemingly powerless clinic clients or articulating unpopular but important legal positions? And what about all this talk from the ABA and the profession about how students need to be better prepared for practice and the profession. “Really!1?! Really!?!” How is that going to happen when you de-value those in the academy who teach through supervised practice ? CLEA President Kate Kruse got it spot on when she wrote on the clinic listserv,
“Because tenure is now and is likely to remain the norm only for doctrine professors, both of these provisions protect current faculty power relationships and threaten the presence in legal education of teachers specializing in experiential education.’
That is not good news for legal education, law students or future clients. REALLY.
Filed under: Best Practices & Curriculum, Best Practices & Setting Goals, Best Practices for Institutional Effectiveness, Best Practices, Outcomes & Assessment Techniques, Catalysts For Change, Teaching Methodology | Tagged: ABA, ABA Council on Legal Education, aba standards, ABA Taskforce, academic freedom, CLEA, clinical legal education, experiential learning, faculty, faculty tenure, law schools, legal education, legal writing, tenure | Leave a Comment »
As you know, the ABA Council is meeting today in San Fran to discuss the accreditation standards. If you want up to the minute reporting, Dean Paul McGreal, from Dayton, is tweeting on it and also providing more detailed commentary on the LinkedIn group: Legal Education and Law Schools.
As the ABA Council meets to consider and debate the proposed revisions to the Accreditation Standards found in section 3, The Program of Legal Education, I want to highlight a Forbes article by Michael Horn of the Clayton Christensen Institute. Horn has been studying disruption in education for the last several years.
If we take as a given that our goal in educating potential lawyers is for every single one of our graduates to have mastered the material before graduation, then a system that incorporates formative assessment and feedback is essential. That’s because our current system of feedback and assessment does not ensure that students will be motivated to achieve mastery. Why? According to Horn, “the keys events embedded within curricula that could help students feel successful – examinations – occur [at the end of the semester]. Students generally don’t receive feedback on how they did for another couple weeks while the professor grades them. And when the grades are handed out, the privilege of feeling successful is reserved only for the best students. By design the rest experience failure.”
But, according to the “Jobs To Be Done” theory that Clayton Christensen and Horn posit, law students hire law schools in part to make them feel successful and make meaningful progress. How can our system of assessment be so out of line with what students hire us to do?
The article is definitely worth reading and explains why I envision blending online learning with active, problem-based, face-to-face instruction as a means to build motivation and thrive for mastery in learning for all our students.
Kudos to fellow bloggers, Michael Hunter Schwartz, Gerry Hess and Sophie Sparrow for highlighting excellent pedagogy in their new book, What Do The Best Law Professors Do?
In the comments below, let’s share some more ideas. What do you or your colleagues do that would make this book?