Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Academic Writing Meets Web 2.0

Follow the link in the title to this post to visit "Criminal Law Conversations" hosted at U. Penn by Prof. Paul H. Robinson. Law profs are participating in this experiment by nominating and voting for their favorite essays on Criminal Law. Participants may also sign up to comment on the selected "core texts." Authors of the core texts then have an opportunity to respond to the comments. The winners will appear in a book tentatively to be published by Oxford University Press. What an interesting effort!

Guantanamo Detainees

Today's Boston Globe reports on one of the law firms representing Guantanamo detainees, pro bono here.

On June 12, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion stating that the detainees have a right to a civil hearing under habeas corpus. The majority decision specifically states it does not address the government's claim that they have a right to hold them indefinitely without a hearing. In Boumediene v. Bush, Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority of himself, Souter, Ginsberg and Breyer, considers the separation of powers doctrine as a key element in reading the Suspension clause and deciding whether Congress supplied an adequate substitute for habeas corpus rights:

Our decision today holds only that the petitioners before us are entitled to seek the writ; that the DTA review procedures are an inadequate substitute for habeas corpus; and that the petitioners in these cases need not exhaust the review procedures in the Court of Appeals before proceeding with their habeas actions in the District Court. The only law we identify as unconstitutional is MCA section 7 (28 U.S.C.A. section 2241 (e) Supp 2007).

See the official slip opinion full text here. See the briefs in the case at the ABA website, by scrolling to Dec. 5, Boumediene here.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Curricular Changes at Northwestern

Inside Higher Education is reporting on curricular changes at Northwestern Law School that could potentially have important repercussions for legal education in the United States. I am reproducing the article below because the computer I am using while on vacation is not letting me add links. Frankly, I'm just glad to have free Internet access. The article was written by Scott Jaschik.

Northwestern's dean, David Van Zandt, known as one of the prime movers behind the somewhat mysterious American Law Deans Association, has announced a new two-year program that will take five semesters and require students to begin law school in the summer they are admitted. Because of the accelerated pace, students will still be able to have summer jobs after the first summer.

Also of note is Northwestern's addition of three required courses to the curriculum. Intitially, they will be required only of students in the accelerated program, but eventually, they will be required of all students. The courses are quantitative analysis (accounting, finance, statistics); dynamics of legal behavior (teamwork, leadership, project management); and strategic decision making. All of these skills are considered areas of deficiency among new law school graduates by the firms that hire them. It will be interesting to see how long it takes the Northwestern model to spread to other law schools, particularly the non-elite ones.

An Elite Law Degree — in 2 Years
Northwestern University is today announcing a new choice for those applying to its law school: a degree in just two years.

Such an option would have been impossible until 2004, when the American Bar Association lifted a requirement that law degrees follow six semesters of instruction. In 2005, the University of Dayton introduced a two-year option that officials there say has been a success. Northwestern is among the bigger names in legal education, however, so its move may have more of an impact.

The Northwestern program, like Dayton’s, is one of five semesters. Starting next year, some Northwestern law students will begin their courses the summer immediately after they are admitted, rather than in the fall. Then students would enroll in the regular fall and spring semesters for the next two academic years, leaving time for the traditional law internship between the two full years. Students would complete the same number of courses and credits in the two- and three-year programs, with accelerated students simply taking an extra course most semesters.

David Van Zandt, dean of the law school, said in an interview Thursday that no decision had been made about whether tuition would differ for the program. While Northwestern currently charges tuition of $42,672 for a year of law school, Van Zandt said that the decision may be to charge by the program and not the semester. The financial attraction to the program, he said, is much more likely to be the ability to be earning a salary a year earlier — not an insignificant matter when many Northwestern law grads pull in $150,000 to $200,000 in their first jobs.

The two-year option is part of a broader reform of the law school curriculum, including the addition of new courses to be required of both two-year and three-year students. The curriculum was designed based on focus groups with many law firms and other entities that employ lawyers. Van Zandt said that Northwestern specifically asked the employers whether they would have any hesitations about hiring law grads who complete the program at a speedier pace, and that the employers didn’t care at all — and some said that they were excited about hiring such graduates.

While the two-year option will have the same curriculum as the traditional program, Van Zandt said that to be admitted to it, applicants will be required to have two or three years of “substantive work experience” after college. While this is typical of Northwestern law admissions, it is not a requirement for the three-year program. People with work experience are likely to have “the good time management” necessary, he said.

Northwestern hopes to admit 25-40 students into a two-year program next year. Van Zandt said he expected the program to be popular and that students would not be put off by the need to finish requirements on a schedule that will be compressed. Northwestern has a joint J.D.-M.B.A. program that used to be four years and when it switched to three, forcing students to do more work each semester, applications skyrocketed, he said.

Lori Shaw, dean of students at Dayton’s law school, said that the first graduates of the two-year program have just completed their degrees. While she said several years of data should be analyzed before drawing firm conclusions, all the early results are positive, she said. Academically, the students perform as well as those taking three years to graduate. The average age is about three years older.

Shaw said she was particularly pleased to see that about 20 percent of the first cohort received honors for volunteer work they did while in law school, while others worked on the Dayton Law Review. There was no evidence that the two-year students were unable to participate in the full law school experience, she said. “They find the time to do things,” she said. “It’s fascinating to see how much they can do.”

While Northwestern’s two-year option is the most dramatic reform being announced today, there are other curricular changes as well. Northwestern is adding three new required courses (to the nine currently required, largely following a traditional law curriculum), starting with the two-year program and eventually being required of everyone. The new requirements are:

Quantitative analysis (accounting, finance and statistics).
Dynamics of legal behavior (teamwork, leadership and project management).
Strategic decision making.
These topic areas were grouped by faculty members based on the focus groups of what legal employers need, Van Zandt said. He said that there were some surprises in that the strongest push for more quantitative analysis among graduates came from nonprofit groups that hire lawyers, not from corporate law firms.

A theme behind the new courses and plans to revamp existing courses is an emphasis on communication skills, Van Zandt said. In addition to traditional legal writing (a memo, a brief), he said employers urged the law school to stress such skills as the ability to deliver advice to a client in a one-page memo. A common complaint was that lawyers appear to have been taught to “waffle,” Van Zandt said. He hopes that Northwestern will be training lawyers who will when appropriate “make a firm recommendation” and know how to communicate that — either to fellow lawyers or people who aren’t lawyers.

For students in the traditional three-year program, Northwestern is also introducing new options, especially in the third year. Several programs will allow students to spend up to a semester in full-time “experiential” programs, such as working in a legal clinic, working as an apprentice in a law firm outside the United States, or for those considering academic careers, various research options.

The emphasis on expanded practical education mirrors recommendations issued last year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In March, the law school at Washington and Lee University announced a plan to replace the entire third-year curriculum with experiential courses and programs.

Van Zandt said that the changes at Northwestern and elsewhere suggested to him that more law schools would soon be creating options to overhaul or eliminate year three. “Legal education is extremely conservative,” he said, “but long term this is inevitable.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Profiling at the Reference Desk

I contributed the above article, "Profiling at the Reference Desk," to the latest issue of the SCCLL newsletter. My article is on page 13. In the article, I call for improved data collection to improve the evaluation of how librarians contribute to court procedures. I welcome comments and debate on the topic.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Registration for the CS-SIS Web 2.0 Challenge opens today!

Are you interested in learning about applications like blogs, wikis, and Second Life, but don’t have a lot of time?

Take the Computing Services-SIS Web 2.0 Challenge!

The Web 2.0 Challenge — a free, comprehensive, and interactive online course — will use hands-on exercises to introduce law librarians to many kinds of social technologies in just five weeks. The course will take only 1-3 hours per week.

The Web 2.0 Challenge will take place between July 21 and August 18, immediately following the AALL Annual Meeting. The course will focus on:

  • Week 1: Blogs & RSS
  • Week 2: Wikis
  • Week 3: Social Networking and Second Life
  • Week 4: Flickr & Social Bookmarking
  • Week 5: Next Steps: Web 2.0 @ Your Library
For more information, visit the CS-SIS Web site at See also our brochure (PDF).

Registration opens today, so don't wait. We expect that the course will fill quickly.

If you have any questions, please contact CS-SIS Web 2.0 Challenge Co-chairs Deborah Ginsberg, Meg Kribble, or Bonnie Shucha.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Good-by for Now

I will be on vacation from tomorrow until July 7. I probably won't have access to an Internet connection while I am away, but will look forward to catching up with OOTJ when I return.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yet Another New Law School?

I blogged last week about the possibility of a number of new law schools around the country, including three in New York State alone. Today comes another story (see below) from the New York Lawyer about the possible launch of a law school at the University of New Haven. Connecticut already has three law schools (Quinnipiac, University of Connecticut, and Yale), and it is hard to imagine that this small state needs another law school to meet the legal needs of its population. What is particularly strange about the proliferation of new law schools is that admissions to law schools are down nationally. In addition, not a week goes by that I don't see an article in the legal press about law firms downsizing and laying off staff. As I said in last week's post, these new schools are more about burnishing the reputation of their parent institutions than they are about filling an actual need.

Another Local Law School Is in the Works
New York Lawyer
June 10, 2008
By Douglas S. Malan
The Connecticut Law Tribune
The University of New Haven is moving forward with plans for a new law school, setting its sights on 2013 for its first class.
An eight-month feasibility study has been completed and the results will be presented to the private university's board of governors on Thursday. The law school will seek accreditation from the American Bar Association.
University President Steven H. Kaplan said the study "shows what we believed, that there is still a great deal of demand for a law school in Connecticut."
Kaplan said there's specifically a demand for more specialized education in law schools, and that's where UNH, which is actually in West Haven, can makes its impact. For example, officials envision graduates from the university's Tagliatela College of Engineering wanting background in patent and intellectual property law as they move into their professional careers.
Likewise, the college sees graduates of the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences desiring in-depth study of criminal law.
Pairing a law school with these programs is "a good fit," Kaplan said. Recent engineering school graduates who obtained law degrees elsewhere told Kaplan that a law school option at UNH would have been attractive to them.
"I would envision students going to the law school for the intellectual and analytical skills that pertain to the law and then using their J.D.s in areas other than practicing law," Kaplan said. Each year, approximately 40 UNH graduates go on to law school.
If created, UNH would be the fourth law school in the state, and the third in the New Haven area. The others are Quinnipiac School of Law in Hamden and Yale Law School in downtown New Haven. The University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford is the state's only public law school.
There is talk of market saturation, not just in Connecticut but the Northeast in general. Including UNH, there are six law school plans on the drawing board in this part of the country. "This is beyond absurd," said William Henderson, a professor at Indiana University School of Law, who focuses on the legal job market.
The proposals come at a time when law school applications nationwide are declining. The number of people applying to the 198 ABA-accredited law schools and the nine provisionally accredited schools dropped for the fourth year in a row, according to the Law School Admission Council.
Preliminary figures for this autumn show a 1 percent decline in the number of applicants, while the number of overall applications increased by 2.7 percent. The figures indicate that while fewer people are applying to law school, they are submitting more applications.
The American Bar Association cannot limit the number of law schools that seek or obtain accreditation because of restraint of trade issues. In addition, the accreditation process does not specifically require law schools to demonstrate that their students can find employment after graduation.
Start-Up Capital
Nationally, some educators have issued cautions to colleges planning new law schools. They warn that a start-up program can cost up to $50 million, and that it's hard to recoup the investment because of high operating costs that include faculty salaries and additional admissions officers.
Kaplan said UNH projects that it would need start-up capital of $20 million, and that the university is "talking to major donors right now." The feasibility study revealed that a surplus in the university's operating budget could cover the first three years of operating expenses, Kaplan said.
The school also is searching for 100,000 square feet of physical space for the law school, which could come from rehabbing an existing building.
UNH first considered a law school shortly after Quinnipiac absorbed the University of Bridgeport's law school in the 1990s. Many faculty members believed UNH should have made a stronger push to obtain that law school, Kaplan said.
Quinnipiac School of Law Dean Brad Saxton declined comment on the proposal for a new law school just 15 miles from his campus. But other sources say that UNH may be able to take advantage of a decision by Quinnipiac to decrease the size of its law school classes and focus on students who score highest on the LSATs.
The idea is that the better students will find jobs at bigger law firms, which in turn would enhance the school's position in the influential U.S. News & World Report rankings. In this year's national rankings of law schools, Yale was No. 1 and UConn was 46th. Quinnipiac was considered a third-tier school, ranking outside the top 100.
Meanwhile, deans at Yale and UConn said the more law schools the merrier.
Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh is a New Haven native who spent his childhood watching baseball games at UNH. "I admire the way the university has grown and developed," he said. Though he was unaware of UNH's proposal for a law school, "I'd be the last guy to discourage it."
Koh added that a new law school would provide additional opportunities for Yale Law School graduates who are interested in teaching.
UConn School of Law Dean Jeremy Paul said his school is "very supportive" of UNH's endeavors. "We would welcome any university that works to put together a quality program," he said.
This story includes reporting from The National Law Journal, sister publication of the Connecticut Law Tribune

Monday, June 09, 2008

Pecking Order

Check out this story in today's New York Times. Entitled "Now Professors Get Their Star Rankings, Too," the article discusses the history and significance of the Social Science Research Network, or SSRN, as it is more popularly known. According to its homepage, SSRN is "devoted to the rapid worldwide dissemination of social science research and is composed of a number of specialized research networks in each of the social sciences." SSRN has two parts: an abstract database of over 188,000 working papers and forthcoming papers, and a full-text database containing over 151,000 downloadable documents. According to the Times, the definition of "documents" is expansive enough to include "pensees, abstracts, informal arguments, outlines, rough drafts and working papers, up to the finished products you might find in academic journals." SSRN's greatest strength is in the economic and legal scholarship, where its influence is growing.

This growing influence comes from the ability to "slice[] and dice[]" the downloads rankings "with only a click: most downloads over all or most downloads in the last 12 months, either by article, by author or by institution." According to one of my colleagues, the ability to parse the downloads has made SSRN the leading metric of scholarly influence in the legal academy. However, how meaningful are download counts when bloggers "can promote their work and offer links to their articles"?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

National Museum of Crime and Punishment

The current issue of ABA Journal features a profile of the newly opened National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C:

The new National Museum of Crime and Punish­ment—opening May 22 in Washington, D.C.—will focus on that nation­al fascination with exhibits that chronicle both our history of bad be­haviors and our sometimes cruel and ingenious ways of reproving them.
. . . .
In addition to a variety of interactive exhibits on activities such as safecracking and crime scene photography, the museum also tries to explore the legal consequences of crime and punishment by devoting part of its ex­hibition space to constitutional rights and notable U.S. Supreme Court rul­ings, including Miranda v. Ari­zona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

It sounds both fascinating and macabre, but I think I'm too squeamish to add it to my own agenda when I'm next in Washington!

[cross-posted with Novalawcity]

Thursday, June 05, 2008

New Law Schools Everywhere?

The New York Lawyer has published the story reproduced below about the sudden explosion of law schools in several states, including New York, Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Idaho. As the article points out, these schools are in additin to the new law school in Irvine, California, and a number of other schools that have opened their doors in the last few years. Most of these states already have a number of law schools (Idaho and Maine are probably not in this category), and it is questionable why they would feel the need to add more. Speaking specifically of New York, where no fewer than three new law schools are contemplated (in Rochester, Stony Brook, and Binghamton), there are already fifteen law schools, ranging from top-tier schools to fourth-tier schools. New York has a fine public law school in Buffalo, which is desperately in need of more funding. Why not support the school we already have?

Every day, we see reports about law firms that are laying off associates and rescinding offers of fall employment (this happened just last month to one of my students). Our Career Services staff works hard to place students and alumni, but they are fighting a tough market. And I don't think we are unique. Most of the start-up schools will not be highly ranked, at least at first, and that will make the job search even harder. I wonder if it's ethical to accept students knowing that they will have a difficult time finding jobs. A lot of these new schools seem to be planned as a way to burnish the reputation of their founding universities rather than in response to a genuine societal need for more attorneys.

Too Many Lawyer Factories and More on the Way
New York Lawyer
June 3, 2008

By Leigh Jones
The National Law Journal

As many as 10 new law schools are in the works, with the majority of them proposed in the eastern part of the country.
While their proponents insist that the schools will serve the needs of their communities and beyond, the plans are drawing sharp criticism from those who argue that creating more law schools is irresponsible.
With three new law schools proposed in New York alone and others also in the early stages in Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, developing facilities to pump out juris doctor degrees is the goal du jour for institutions looking to build a bigger name for themselves.
Planners assert that their schools will offer specialized programs and innovative curricula to J.D. hopefuls. Critics, however, point to a tight job market and starting salaries that do not cover the ballooning costs of tuition for the majority of students already graduating from the nation's hundreds of law schools.
"I have no doubt that those concerns are valid, but it's whether they end up being compelling reasons to pull back on starting a law school," said Loren D. "Chip" Prescott Jr. He is the newly appointed dean of the Wilkes University Law School Planning Initiative, which is pushing to open a law school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., by 2010.
Wilkes University will be competing with Pennsylvania's other schools, which include Duquesne University School of Law; Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law; University of Pennsylvania Law School; University of Pittsburgh School of Law; Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law; Villanova University School of Law; and Widener University School of Law.
Prescott cited a number of reasons to launch a law school in Pennsylvania. First, the closest law school to the area is a two-hour drive away, he said. Second, he sees a need for creative, hands-on training absent in legal education today. Third, a "brand new school," he said, can provide such innovation more readily than older schools constricted by outmoded traditions.
"A school starting from scratch can make a unique contribution," he said.
Crowded in N.Y.
In New York, 15 law schools already are in operation. As in Pennsylvania, they run the rankings spectrum, from top-tier New York University Law School to Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, ranked in the fourth tier by U.S. News & World Report.
Plans are in motion within the State University of New York system to launch two law schools: one at Stony Brook University on Long Island and another in Binghamton, about 200 miles from New York City. In addition, state lawmakers also have set aside money for a law school upstate in Rochester, which would be affiliated with St. John Fisher College.
Other proposals in the Northeast include a new law school at the University of New Haven in Connecticut and another at Husson College in Bangor, Maine. Elsewhere in the country, Louisiana College in Pineville, La., is set to open a Christian-focused law school, and Lincoln Memorial University is planning a law school in Knoxville, Tenn.
In Boise, Idaho, Concordia University has a law school in the works and University of Idaho College of Law is expected to open a branch in Boise as well.
Almost all of the new schools will seek accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA). Nearly all states, with the notable exception of California, require students to graduate from an ABA-accredited law school in order to take the bar exam.
All of those schools are in addition to University of California, Irvine Donald Bren School of Law, expected to open in autumn 2009, and at least seven other law schools that have popped up across the country in the last five years seeking accreditation by the ABA.
"This is beyond absurd," said William Henderson, a professor at Indiana University School of Law — Bloomington. His scholarship focuses on the legal job market.
Henderson's research, which is based on data obtained from the ABA and ALM Research, a subsidiary of the parent company of The National Law Journal, shows dismal job prospects for many law graduates from lower-tier schools already in existence. New law schools historically have fallen into the lower tiers of the rankings by U.S. News & World Report, at least in their first years of operation.
Part of Henderson's research focuses on so-called "bad outcomes" experienced by law students, which include graduates who were unemployed nine months after graduation, whose job status was unknown or students who flunked out. He determined the 50 law schools with the highest percentages of "bad outcomes," and revealed a range between 49.1% and 27.9% of bad outcomes among the 20 law schools with the highest percentages of such outcomes. All of those schools were ranked either in the third or fourth tier by U.S. News & World Report.
"The popular perception is that there's a big monolith of wealth," he said. "The reality is that some people are making lots of money and a lot of people are not able to make a living."
Henderson's research is based on data collected from 2005 and 2007. But the job market may be even bleaker now due to a downturn in the economy in 2008.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

AALS Workshop for Law Librarians

Fordham Law School Library, also a Government Document Depository.Image via WikipediaEarlier today I returned to Buffalo from the first Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Mid-Year Workshop for Law Librarians. About 100 law library directors and aspiring directors got together in Cleveland for three days of programs and discussion. The workshop dealt with two themes: (1) The question of the desirability or importance of the traditional requirement of tenure for law library directors, and (2) the skills and aptitudes required to be a successful director.

I thought it was an excellent conference. One of our small-group tasks was to draft a new ABA Standard on the status of the library director. Current Standard 603(d) reads:

(d) Except in extraordinary circumstances, a law library director shall hold a law faculty appointment with security of faculty position.
Interpretation 603-3 continues:
The granting of faculty appointment to the director of the law library under this Standard normally is a tenure or tenure-track appointment. If a director is granted tenure, this tenure is not in the administrative position of director.
At the end of the Monday session we were presented two revised versions of this standard: one essentially similar to the current version, the other making tenure clearly mandatory. A straw poll of the attendees found the group evenly divided between the looser and more mandatory standard.

If you'd like to hear more of what other attendees thought of the workshop, go to Flickr. I made a video blog project out of close to two dozen short video clips of workshops registrants recounting the most valuable things they got out of the conference. You can also leave comments and questions.

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