Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Clinic Triumphs

Law school clinics have come under criticism lately, so it is heartening to read about a clinic that has helped to do justice in a case that dated back to the civil rights era. An article in today's Boston Globe highlights the work of Northeastern University Law School's Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project. Students working under the direction of Professor Margaret A. Burnham helped bring about a settlement of a "federal lawsuit that had accused Franklin County [Mississippi] law enforcement officials of assisting Klansmen in the kidnapping, torture, and murder" of two African American teenagers who were hitchhiking at the time they were abducted in 1964. Professor "Burnham and about 15 law students spent roughly 2 1/2 years ... combing through thousands of pages of old FBI files and police reports, interviewing dozens of witnesses in Mississippi, and researching the history of racial bias by law enforcement in the county." The suit was settled out of court and the terms are confidential; money was paid to the victims' surviving family members, although officials continue to deny that the county in any way contributed to the horrific murders. Click here to hear Professor Burnham discuss the case on NPR's All Things Considered or to read a transcript.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Law Schools' Efforts to Aid Students

The New York Times covered various law schools' efforts to aid their students in these difficult times in this article by Catherine Rampell dated June 21, 2010. It begins with the various schools that have inflated students' grades: Loyola Los Angeles, NYU, Georgetown, Golden Gate and Tulane, according to the article. Other strategies to help student include stipends to students in unpaid public interest internships. Schools offering such stipends include Duke, and University of Texas, Austin. And according to the article Southern Methodist University has taken that plan a step farther and begun offering to pay for-profit firms to employ their students.

A variation of the grade inflation method, is to move from grades to pass-fail options. Harvard and Stanford have recently moved from traditional grades to pass-fail, joining schools like Yale and University of California Berkeley, which have long offered that arrangement. Another option is to soften the grade curve. Schools that have followed that route include a raft of California schools: UCLA, USC, and UC Hastings, as well as Vanderbilt.

As ever, Above the Law is quick to poke fun at the schools adjusting the GPA. For instance, read this post about Tulane, where ATL poster notes that the decision is driven by the embarrassment of the school in the job market, so the decision is made to make the students look better on paper, more competitive with other schools' students. But then, what will the effect be on students' scholarships? Students with scholarships will be more likely to retain their scholarship dollars with the higher GPA, costing Tulane more money. ATL predicts that the GPA required to retain scholarship money will be raised as soon as the dust settles from the first memo. How did they become so cynical?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Change of Pace II

Well, it's over - yes, classes have ended at WCL's Turkish Summer Program.
What a great experience. If you have summer programs and are asked to participate - SAY YES!
It's been fun, challenging, different, mind-boggling, and the list of adjectives goes on.
The presenters were well prepared, spoke excellent English, and really gave our students a picture of Turkish Law in general and all of the many business law aspects.
Our side trips to Ankara to visit the World Bank & the Mausoleum of Ataturk were amazing. And then there was Cappadocia and Ephesus - life changing for sure.
More importantly, was the real face time with "students". The faculty in our program resided on campus in the "faculty hotel" near the women's dormitory facilities - yes, no AC, but of course, we survived.
We attended classes, ate lunch; sometimes dinner and cheered the US and many other adopted countries on in World Cup matches with our students. That's when you learn about their dedication to legal education; life-long dreams; and they've never heard of WorldCat.
We had one presenter who was not able to attend and I shared a very detailed power-point with them entitled - Legal Research on Steroids - it's just amazing what they know & what they don't know. 1L legal research & writing courses just can't cover it all and the limited enrollments for the advanced legal research courses make our work extremely difficult - WE NEED TO RESOLVE THIS!! Not sure I have the answer - but the students were amazed at the resources they didn't recognized and how helpful the law library could be to their "comment writing", research for papers, and work they do for faculty.
Of course, my ability to participate was made possible by technology, SKYPE, internt access, and my great staff at the Pence Law Library.
I now have the "hard part" ahead - grading exams (yes, that's what we get paid for!!
Leaving for Hong Kong to do a ABA site visit for the Pepperdine Law School program and then home - yes, just in time for the 4th of July and AALL.
See you there!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blind Students Get Free Access to Cambridge Univ. Press Books

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the Cambridge University Press has reached a new agreement with Bookshare, an not for profit organization that converts books and journals into formats that can be read by blind people. The agreement adds about 10,000 titles from the Cambridge U. Press backlist to the titles available on the Bookshare list. And about 3,000 new Cambridge Press titles will be added each year, according to the article. And best of all, the titles will be free, at least to U.S. students. Colleges sign up for membership in Bookshare, and their students then have access to the titles available through the organization. Take a look at the Bookshare website, and see how the U. S. Department of Education sponsors the program. Pretty cool.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

ABA Journal Roundtable: Lowering The Stakes - How Law Schools Can Help Next Gen Lawyers Take the Gamble Out of Hefty Tuition

The ABA Journal Online has a terrific Podcast here , that also includes a handy transcript. They had a roundtable discussion with two law school deans and a law student, Kyle McEntee, who also co-founded Law School Transparency, a non-profit dedicated to improving access to law school employment information. The deans include David Van Zandt of Northwestern University, and a frequent critic of legal education (see this note at Above the Law). Van Zandt is one of the leaders of the ALDA deans who advocate doing away with faculty status for clinicians and librarians (GRRR), among other innovations, and struggle against the ABA standards as they exist now. He seems excited by the new standards being considered by the second dean, Dean Donald J. Polden of Santa Clara University, who heads the ABA Standards Committee, and is considering outputs rather than inputs as the measure to consider.

The discussion is wide-ranging and interesting. I recommend you click in and listen or read the transcript. Highlights include:

* Improving the information that schools make available to prospective students on the employment of their recent graduates, including improving the nuances, such as types of employment, and salary levels. The idea is that prospective students should be able to decide if the investment in a JD from school X, Y or Z would be worth it in terms of the probable improvement in the student's earning power upon graduation.

* An interesting side-note from Dean Van Zandt where he calculates that, on average, law students need to earn $65,000 in order to recoup the lost wages they would have earned in the three years of law school, plus the cost of law school. That's pretty depressing if you look at the average salary for lots of different law schools...

* The unreasonable optimism of law students, where 80% believe that they will be in the top 10% of their class.

* And an interesting discussion of the reasons that law school tuition has risen so dramatically in recent years. This is an interesting discussion, and tends to boil down to 2 main pieces: 1) An increased number of small classes, reducing the faculty-student ratio and 2) An increase in the number of staff such as IT, academic support, career development, etc. So you have more faculty and you have more student support. Dean Van Zandt also notes that law schools compete on these, and on quality, and the US News rankings, both of which require spending to attract quality faculty and better quality students with higher LSAT scores. It would take a major sea change to get law schools to compete instead on cost.

In the comments, some of which are strikingly bitter, there is a pointer to an EXCELLENT article at Dated April 16, 2008, this article still has lots of very useful analysis and data. The authors, William D. Henderson and Andrew P. Moriss, writing for the National Law Journal, analyze "What Law School Rankings Don't Say About Costly Choices." They do in-depth analysis of post-graduation debt and jobs, by US News Ranking, type of employment. This is an excellent article and should certainly be in the reading list for professors who are discussing the problems of over burdened students.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Librarians do Ga-Ga

The librarians at the I-School at University of Washington, made an AWESOME video, and posted it to YouTube, right here, based on a Lady Gaga video (apparently). It's a charmer and also has a great message. They are terrific! Tip of the OOTJ hat to Grace Mills, who sent the link to me (recovering at home from knee replacement surgery). But I was so energized by the video that I was instantly empowered to jump up & blog over tall buildings. Watch it & you, too, will have a smile on your face!