Our Own Worst Critics

The journal Science just published a study reporting that top scientists were unable to reproduce the results claimed by 75% of social psychology studies and 50% of cognitive psychology ones. All of the studies appeared in top-ranked journals.

Some scientists, I’m sure, are reeling that their work has been challenged. But I like the attitude expressed by Brian Nosek, a prominent researcher who led the reproduction study. “Scepticism is a core part of science,” he told journalists, “and we need to embrace it. . . . We should be our own worst critics,”

The Tale of Two Students

A recent statement by a group of deans offers a telling insight into the way law schools envision their graduates’ practice experience. In the course of criticizing California’s proposal to require 15 units of experiential education, the deans contrast two types of students.

Statement from the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education

The AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education has issued an excellent statement about California’s proposal to require bar applicants to complete 15 units of practice-based experiential coursework. I have already written two posts supporting this proposal, and agree with the views expressed in the Section’s statement. Here is the statement in full:

Student Choice

This is the second in a series of posts about California’s proposed changes in bar admission rules. As my first post explains, the proposal will require bar applicants to show that they have completed 15 units of “practice-based, experiential coursework.”

Some law school deans have objected to the proposal on the ground that it will “limit the flexibility and self-determination of individual students in studying law, and in planning diverse careers.” That objection is misguided. The California proposal will increase student options by pressing law schools to teach more of the courses that students want and need.

Kudos to California

In February 2012, the California Bar Association appointed a task force to “examine whether the State Bar should develop a regulatory requirement for a pre-admission competency training program.” The group, dubbed the “Task Force on Admissions Regulatory Reform” (TFARR), oversaw hearings, deliberations, and consultations with key constituencies. It issued an initial report in 2013, which was adopted by the bar association’s board of trustees, then held a second round of hearings and deliberations to refine the recommendations for implementation.

That second report has been approved by the bar and awaits action by the California Supreme Court. What’s noteworthy about all of this? If approved, law graduates seeking to join the California bar will have to meet three new requirements. Law schools around the country will also have to help their California-bound students satisfy the first requirement: demonstrating completion of “15 units of practice-based, experiential coursework.”

Thin Skins

Appellate judges sometimes complain about the “negative bias” in law review articles. “Scholars don’t write about what we do right,” the judges grumble. “They only write when they think we’ve gotten something wrong.”

I can think of exceptions to this tendency, but I think the judges are largely right. There’s not much point to an article that praises a judicial opinion; the opinion speaks for itself. Colleagues and tenure reviewers, moreover, won’t be very impressed by an article that simply extols a court’s reasoning; we want evidence of the professor’s critical thinking. At the very least, that means the scholar should suggest an alternative ground for the court’s decision. Academic scholarship slants toward the critical.