Legal Education and the Justice Gap

April 29th, 2016 / By

I read recently about an organization that provides efficient, effective legal services to low- and middle-income clients. The organization, Chicago’s Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services (“CARPLS“), has been serving clients for almost a quarter century. They currently help about 28,000 clients a year at an average cost of just $33 per consultation. How do they do it? And what can legal educators learn from CARPLS’s success? Read on.

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Engines of Anxiety

April 29th, 2016 / By

Two sociologists, Wendy Nelson Espeland and Michael Sauder, have published a book that examines the impact of US News rankings on legal education. The book, titled Engines of Anxiety, is available as an e-book through Project Muse. If your university subscribes to Project Muse (as mine does), you can download the book and read it for free on your laptop or tablet. If you don’t have access to a university library, some public libraries also subscribe to books through Project Muse. It’s a great way to read academic books and journals. H/t to TaxProf for noting publication of this book.

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Harvard Goes Hollywood

April 22nd, 2016 / By

Hollywood Public Relations is promoting a new program at Harvard Business School (HBS) called the Credential of Readiness (CORe). One of Hollywood PR’s account executives sent me an email, asking if I would like to blog about the program. Why not? I’ll discuss here the program’s suitability for law students. In a second post, I’ll explore what law schools themselves might learn from CORe.

And, of course, I’ll reflect on the curious marriage of the words “Hollywood” and “Harvard.”

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Hippocrates

April 17th, 2016 / By

In a forthcoming article, I discuss the ethical duty that professionals have to educate new members of their profession. The ancient Hippocratic oath recognized this duty, commanding all physicians “to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning . . . to pupils who have signed the covenant.” Contemporary versions of the oath enforce a similar obligation, while moral and economic principles support the existence of this duty.

Surprisingly, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct do not recognize this duty among lawyers. This is a worrisome flaw. Without an established duty to educate new lawyers, our profession cannot effectively serve clients. Nor can we justify our status as professionals. Professions are communities rather than mere occupations–and an essential feature of those communities is their commitment to ongoing education.

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A Look Into Our Archives

April 12th, 2016 / By

This episode is brought to you by BarBri Law Preview. They’re giving away a $10,000 scholarship for a 1L this fall. If you want to apply, go to LawGiveAway.com.

In this episode, Kyle McEntee (LST’s executive director) and Derek Tokaz (one of IATL‘s hosts) discuss three episodes from the archives. They reflect on what they found more interesting and important, emphasizing the value in researching legal careers early and often.

The three episodes are:

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Scholarship Advice

April 5th, 2016 / By

My talented colleague Chris Walker is blogging this month at PrawfsBlawg with a series of posts about how junior scholars can maximize the impact of their scholarship. As Chris explains in his initial post, he hopes to crowdsource answers to questions that junior scholars frequently ask.

I hope Chris’s discussion will attract both junior scholars and more senior ones. A lot has changed in the world of legal scholarship over the last thirty-five years:

  • Junior professors begin their tenure-track work with more substantial scholarly experience.
  • Technology and reduced teaching loads allow tenure-track faculty to produce more scholarship–which, in turn, raises expectations for that production.
  • Law reviews, conferences, and online forums have multiplied, making scholarship more interactive.
  • Interdisciplinary work has increased and become more sophisticated.
  • Concerns about insularity have revived interest (at least among some faculty) in scholarship that directly addresses student or practitioner needs.

Given these changes, how do we choose to use the time given us for scholarship? The opportunity to engage in unfettered scholarship is a great privilege–one that we should execute in the public interest. That doesn’t mean that the public should dictate our scholarship; great discoveries sometimes come from meandering, seemingly “irrelevant” explorations. But we, the scholars, should regularly reflect on the ways we use our privilege.

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Appellate Lawyer: Telling A Court They Got It Wrong [Small Firm]

April 3rd, 2016 / By

There’s an old saying: When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither is on you side, pound the table. But if you’re an appellate lawyer? All you have is the law because the record (facts) is set at the trial level.

Virginia Whitner Hoptman is a 1981 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. Immediately following law school, she had back-to-back appellate clerkships. The first was with the Third Circuit and the second was with the U.S. Supreme Court. She changed course several times throughout her career, but has settled back where she started with a highly-specialized appellate practice.

In this episode, Virginia explains the appeals process for winners and losers at the trial level. She also talks to us about elitism in the world of appeals, how difficult it is to become a full-time appellate lawyer, and what makes appellate lawyers fundamentally different than trial lawyers.

This episode is hosted by Kyle McEntee, LST’s executive director. It is sponsored by ShouldIBeALawyer.com and Top-Law-Schools.com.

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The Fall Of Systemic Deception At Law Schools

March 29th, 2016 / By

Originally published on Above the Law.

Last week, Anna Alaburda lost her lawsuit against Thomas Jefferson School of Law. From what one juror said of deliberations, the jury only considered deliberate falsification of the data underlying the statistics she consulted before law school. Systemic deception by law schools, blessed by the ABA, was not on trial. While I am disappointed in the result — I think it would have been an important symbol — I want to talk about the changes that we’ve seen over the last six years on the transparency front. We did not win on every count, but we long-ago declared victory. Here’s why. (more…)

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Job Growth

March 26th, 2016 / By

How many lawyering jobs does our economy support? Is that number still growing? Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shed light on these questions. Every other year, BLS counts the number of existing “lawyer” jobs as part of its Employment Projections program. This count is particularly useful because, unlike some other BLS reports, it includes both salaried and self employed workers. These biennial counts thus include solo practitioners, law firm partners, and practicing lawyers who earn a salary from any source.

By examining these counts, which are available online since 1978, we can chart growth trends for lawyering jobs. (For a full description of the jobs included in these figures, see the note at the end of this post.)

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Jury Verdict for Thomas Jefferson

March 24th, 2016 / By

Anna Alaburda’s lawsuit against the Thomas Jefferson School of Law is over: a split jury returned a verdict for the law school earlier today. Nine jurors sided with the school, three would have found for Alaburda. One of the jurors stressed that their deliberations focused only on data reported in two editions of US News, rather than on later figures that might have been more misleading. He implied that even the nine jurors siding with the school were not completely comfortable with the school’s conduct.

What should legal educators make of this verdict? Some may sigh in relief; although graduates filed fraud claims against numerous schools, only one has produced a recovery for the plaintiffs. That one suit involved Golden Gate, which paid $8,000 to each of five plaintiffs in a settlement.

Others may celebrate, interpreting the Alaburda verdict as vindication of all employment reporting practices at law schools. If a jury of ordinary citizens found no fraud, then there must have been no wrongdoing.

I would interpret Alaburda and its kin as a more cautionary tale. The widespread reporting practices provoking these lawsuits damaged the reputation of legal education. Most educators now agree that our prior practices were–at the very least–not as informative for prospective students as they should have been. Some of the practices, such as failing to report the number of students supplying salary data, bordered on deceitful.

After the jury verdict, Thomas Jefferson’s attorney told a reporter: “This is not, you know, Trump University. It is so not that.” In my opinion, law schools should have worked harder to avoid even the possibility of that comparison.

 

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Deborah J. Merritt

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ABA Journal Blawg 100 HonoreeLaw School Cafe is a resource for anyone interested in changes in legal education and the legal profession.

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