A Thanksgiving Reflection on Legal Education in 2015

We are in the season of Thanksgiving.  I hope that all of us can step back, take a breath, and reflect on our blessings as we head into the Thanksgiving weekend, to be followed very soon by the yearly challenges of preparing and grading fall term exams.


Here are some of the things I am thankful for at this time in 2015:


  1. Legal educators are becoming more knowledgeable and committed to innovative teaching and assessment methods than ever.  I attended the assessment conference at Whittier Law School that was the subject of Barbara Glesner-Fines earlier post on this blog.  I must say it was among the best conferences I have ever attended.  We had numerous examples of exemplary teaching from around the country (among my favorites were Andi Curcio, Judy Daar, Cassandra Hill, Susan Simpson, Patricia Leary, Andrea Funk, and Barry Currier… but it is hard to call out favorites since all were excellent).  I particularly give thanks for David Thomson’s reminder that not that long ago, he and his colleagues at the University of Denver School of Law hosted a conference on assessment that pushed the envelope.  What a long way we have come.


  1. Legal educators are asking the challenging questions about the ways in which bar exams (particularly those developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners) are or are not assessing what needs to be assessed through national and state bar examinations.  There is a growing realization that deeper dialogue is needed since it appears that the National Conference is employing important statistical standards for assuring the integrity of their examinations, but that such standards are not enough to assure that examinations actually test student capacity to serve as competent lawyers in the public interest.


  1. Clinical, legal writing, and traditional faculty members have been coming together to ask challenging questions and to offer deep insights about legal education.  This year has seen the publication of “Building on Best Practices” under the leadership of Debbie Maranville, Lisa Radtke Bliss, Carolyn Wilkes Kaas and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.  This publication is free to legal educators, thanks to the support of the book’s publisher, Lexis.  There are many insights that are freely shared in this publication and faculties across the country and abroad should give careful attention to the insights by numerous faculty members collected there.


  1. Students are increasingly choosing to attend law school for the right reasons.  They recognize that the point is not merely to gain high-paying jobs, but rather to bring justice to the world around them.  Hats off, as well, to decision makers in the federal government who have worked over the years to develop new strategies for repaying student loans based on income, in order to help students and graduates pursue the work they believe to be import in the greater good.


  1. I give thanks for the strong and generous individuals who have stepped up to serve as presidents, deans and associate deans during this challenging time in legal education.  It is not easy to juggle the many issues before us, ranging from internal budget challenges to external political pressures, to navigation of demands that law graduates be “practice ready.”  My own list of those to whom and for whom I give thanks are UNC President Tom Ross (UNC JD), former UNC Law Dean Jack Boger (UNC JD), current UNC Law Martin Brinkley (UNC JD), and Associate Dean Jeff Hirsch, among many others around the country.  Leadership jobs in this era are not easy ones.  They take courage, smarts, and equinimity.  We should all give thanks to those who provide important leadership in extremely challenging times.


  1. Congratulations to President Obama, a distinguished legal educator in his own right.  I have never been prouder than when I see him call for thoughtful and careful resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.  Those who came to the United States and met its indigenous peoples did so in part as refugees seeking to worship as they chose.  Now, endangered people from Syria and the Middle East are similarly seeking a chance to raise their families in peace.  We should respect the religious freedoms of others and their need for safe harbor in an increasingly dangerous world.  We thank our colleague, President Obama, and wish him well in his efforts to bring reason to bear in this very emotional time.


  1. Please, if you can, post your own grounds for thanksgiving.  This is my favorite holiday of the year, and I hope our collective sense of gratitude will live on every day of the year.  Taking a moment to reflect and recognizing those who help us collectively move forward in the interest of justice is time well-spent.


One Response

  1. I am thankful for people like you, Judith, who led the way long before the way was popular.

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