The ABA Journal's April 2008 cover story on U.S. News & World Report's law school rankings includes an interview with the man who devised the ranking system, Bob Morse. After reading the article, I found out that Bob Morse has his very own blog, Morse Code. How very clever.
For those of you who would like to pose some questions to Morse about law school rankings, you can find him answering questions live at ABAJournal.com on Friday, April 11,
from 3 to 4 p.m. Eastern Time (that's Noon to 1 pm Pacific Time, California natives!).
Washington and Lee's law school announced recently that it is completely changing the structure of its third year curriculum by replacing all academic courses with experiential courses. According to the school's press release, "traditional classroom instruction will be replaced by practice simulations,
real-client interactions and the development of law practice skills. All third
year students will be required to obtain a Virginia practice certificate and
participate in at least one real-client experience during the year." Students will have a choice of practice areas, and the school plans to include transactional courses focusing on areas like banking and corporate finance. Most of these recent curricular changes at law schools are being driven in part by the 2007 Carnegie Report, which called for changes in how law students are taught so that students have more practical, "real-life" experiences before they begin practicing law. And I have to think that students themselves will be pleased with these changes. My third year of law school definitely felt a bit superfluous, and I would have jumped at the chance to gain some real practice skills before I graduated. I hope we see more law schools moving in this direction soon!
I received information about the Santa Clara Law roundtable discussion, "Blogging, Scholarship and the Bench and Bar," but wasn't able to attend. Fortunately, the National Law Journal has a transcript of the roundtable discussion available online, and it makes for fascinating reading. Lots of interesting debate about whether law professors' blogs should count as legal scholarship in tenure decisions and how blogging is breaking down communication barriers between practicing attorneys and legal academics. Cindy Cohn, legal counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, had this to say about blogs and legal scholarship: "I don't have the time to read a law review article from beginning to end very
often on my issues. I'd like to see legal scholarship be more accessible to
practitioners, more useful to us." Other interesting tidbits: Judge Michael Daly Hawkins of the Ninth Circuit noted that the Ninth Circuit judges do read blog posts about cases that they've either decided or will decide soon -- compiled for them by the Ninth Circuit's librarian, of course!.
The Recorder is reporting this morning that Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley's law school, will announce a new name in January. Apparently, there is concern that the name "Boalt" is not well-recognized outside of California. I can certainly attest to that -- I lived in California for four years before I realized that Boalt was part of UC Berkeley, and I only found out that little tidbit of information because I started applying to law schools in the Bay Area. No word yet on what the possible new names might be!
According to WSJ's Law Blog, Chemerinsky and Chancellor Michael Drake had a little sit-down over the weekend, and Drake hit the "refresh" button and offered the UC Irvine law school dean position to Chemerinsky again. Law Blog has a copy of Chemerinsky's farewell e-mail to Duke's law school community.
The law blogs are abuzz today with the news that prominent Constitutional scholar and Duke Law professor Erwin Chemerinsky was recently hired as Dean of the new UC Irvine Law School -- then promptly fired. According to Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, UCI Chancellor Michael Drake flew to Durham yesterday to notify Chemerinsky, who had just been hired the week before, that he was being terminated. The reason? Chemerinsky's liberal political views, which might not sit well in the largely conservative, Republican Orange County, where UCI is located.
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog picked up this story and spoke to Chemerinsky, who confirmed the Chancellor's expressed concern that he would be a "lightning rod" and a target of criticism for conservatives. Chemerinsky told the WSJ that a significant opposition to his appointment had developed, but the Chancellor did not name names.
As a fledgling law school at a major UC campus, it's unfortunate that UCI Law is already generating negative publicity. The search for Dean continues...
According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a prospective law student (who had graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University) attempted to purchase a copy of the LSAT from employees of the Law School Admission Test for $5,000. He made his initial contact with the employees through notes slipped under the wipers of their cars. The notes had $100 bills taped to them -- a sure-fire attention getter. The dutiful workers notified their supervisors who arranged a sting operation with the local constabulary. The miscreant has received five years’ probation and was ordered to undergo a psyche evaluation. No word as to his future career plans.
Last Monday at CALI, I attended a fascinating session on interactive, online casebooks. Professor Steve Bradford from the University of Nebraska Lincoln College of Law presented his thoughts on what an online casebook should look like:
It should have plenty of hyperlinks, leading to primary and secondary materials cited in the text, interactive tutorials (such as CALI exercises, of course!), multimedia files (oral argument audio files would be a natural here);
The content should be highly malleable -- instructors should be able to change the organization of the casebook contents to meet their own individual teaching agendas, and they should be able to turn off hyperlinks when it suits their pedagogical needs;
Students should be able to highlight and take notes in digital form.
Sounds pretty exciting, but is anyone doing anything to make online casebooks a reality? I learned that the answer to this question is a resounding "yes."
First, CALI announced at the conference that they are partnering with Harvard's Berkman Center
to create a "new educational resource sharing platform." The venture
will establish the Legal Education Commons -- known as eLangdell --
"where law faculty can share and use openly-licensed course materials
to offer students free or low-cost course packs, casebooks, podcasts,
and video." The venture will also concentrate on developing
"innovative teaching tools to advance practice skills like client
interaction, negotiations, and trial advocacy."
Thomson West is also entering the field with their new Interactive Casebook Series. According to promotional materials, West's interactive casebooks will feature the following:
Simultaneous print version and electronic publication (user may
only access e-version by purchasing print book), with a searchable text
that can be highlighted or otherwise annotated by users;
Electronic version includes extensive hyperlinking to Westlaw
versions of legal materials, Black's Law Dictionary, supplementary
online resources, and internal cross-references;
Layout departs from the traditional, all-text casebook format
through use of marginalia/text boxes, diagrams, and color/border
segregated feature sections for hypotheticals, references to scholarly
debates, or other information.
I find West's insistence on packaging the online and print versions of casebooks in this series pretty annoying, but at least they're working on moving casebook publishing into the 21st century. If you're interested in seeing an example of West's venture yourself, you can view one of the chapters of Spencer's Civil Procedure, the first book in the interactive series.
University of Detroit Mercy School of Law has just announced that all of its third-year students will participate in the school's new Law Firm Program, a series of courses that attempts to recreate the experience of being an associate in a law firm. Each semester, students will work on a single, complex transaction after being assigned to fictional practice areas in a fictional law firm. Students will work within their assigned departments on various aspects of the transaction just as if they were working in different practice areas within a real firm, tackling the tax, employment, or IP issues that arise from a single transaction. As a former associate, I think it's fantastic to see a law school taking such an innovative approach to experiential learning. I think it's particularly important that students obtain more experience with teamwork before they begin practicing law. Whether you're a litigator or a transactional attorney, if you're working in a law firm, it's a safe bet that you'll be spending a good portion of your professional life working with a team of other attorneys, and students need to learn how to work effectively within groups if they're going to succeed in a law firm environment. Thanks to Law Librarian Blog for the tip on this story!