Sharing Takeaways from Michele Pistone’s Bootcamp “Designing an Online Law Course”

I am posting about my experience with this  Bootcamp  for two reasons: 1) to create a space for participants to continue to share experiences and takeaways (please add in comments section below); and 2) to provide some content for those unable to participate in the virtual conference but who are interested in preparing for blended learning or online teaching in 20-21.   The hope is to form a national community of law teacher-scholars-learners as we navigate the uncharted waters of summer 2020 in preparation for the unpredictable  20-21 academic year.

I will start first.  My first takeaway is how comforting it was to discuss with other law faculty in my small Zoom breakout room group the challenges our institutions are facing, the common concerns we all have,  and the inability we have at this moment to know what August will bring.  As Michele Pistone  reminds us in her  Top 5 Tips for Teaching Law Online , we have to change our mindset — from thinking “how can we replicate what we did before” to “how do we utilize this new opportunity to ensure  student learning.”  We have to use time and space differently – thinking about class “time” as a continuum of learning interactions before during and after direct instructor contact/live sessions.  We need to prioritize pivoting and adapting from in person to virtual as the learning benefits afford us opportunities (online polling, quizzes, pre-recorded videos) and the disadvantages – ZOOM FATIGUE – constrain our usual preference for live synchronous lecture, discussion, or flipped classroom.

Preparing for the Fall Semester is akin to preparing for a camping trip or long Adirondack hike — what do I need to have in my EMERGENCY LAW TEACHING KNAPSACK?

Adirondack Hiking | Official Adirondack Region Website

I would suggest packing some handy lodestars we used today to ground our work – such as Bloom’s Taxonomy of Teaching,  VERBS Adapted From Bloom_s Taxonomy  26 Effectiveness Factors Shultz _&  Zedeck. and as my colleague Professor Christine Sgarlata Chung uses in her Bus Orgs casebook  IAALS’ Foundations for Practice.

Another takeaway from the first day of Bootcamp involved deconstructing one’s “in person” syllabus into Unit-Level Learning Goals, Learning Content and Learning Activities.  The folks in my group – who BTW were brilliant, personable and collaborative – found it made us all more intentional and descriptive in parsing our particularized goals and expectations.

Unit-Level Learning Goals

What do I want students to know, be able to do, and value?

Students will be able to: ………

Learning Content

How will the students learn?

What can help transfer knowledge from professor/expert to the student?(textbook, readings, cases, law review articles, statutes, regulations, videos, podcasts)

Learning Activities

How will the students engage with the course content?

How will students put their learning to work?(discussion, reflections, exercise, role plays)

My small breakout room group found ourselves untangling our integrated goals and content and activities to examine the pieces so we can re-assemble in a new, vibrant and effective way.

Looking forward to DAY 2 and more lessons.

I invite any and all participants to add their takeaways in the Comment Section below

The Opportunity to Learn from Other Disciplines (And Maybe in our Own Backyards) About Teaching Online

This is the third of three posts about finding opportunities in the changes we are required to make in legal education because of the rapid spread of Covid-19. The last two focused on grading and employment, this one is about teaching.

The law school classroom, as we know, is a venerable if sometimes creaky battleship.  Its tendency is to keep moving on the same path and turning it is so difficult that until now all reasons for not doing so drowned out the voices of many who believed turning it was long overdue. Another barrier to change has been a lack of specific evidence combined with a deep commitment to law school “exceptionalism”-a belief that we should not adopt contemporary best practices for teaching and learning because none were developed specifically for law school. (As well, perhaps, a fear that by doing so we will make ourselves less special or less rigorous or too transparent). Going forward, this opportunity to pause and learn new things is not just about“ online teaching” but about “online teaching” as part of “excellent teaching.”

Law School Specific Resources

It is reasonable in the current crisis to seek help first from those among us who have successfully taught law online. I have learned a lot from many people and am exceptionally grateful for the generosity of people who have shared their knowledge and expertise.  Anyone who has yet watched the AALS Technology Section’s webinars  or visited Sara Berman’s AccessLex Institute Center for Legal Education Excellence and, of course, the Best Practices For Legal Education blog edited by Professor Mary Lynch with assistance from Jessica Haller and Eileen Roepe, is in for a treat and an immediate upgrade in knowledge, skills, and abilities. So many people have stepped in in specific disciplines to offer advice and share best-practices that if you haven’t gotten an announcement, it’s worth a search of the AALS website.  The Southeastern Association of Law Schools annual SEALS conference , July 30-August 5th, will offer its programs-including its always excellent teaching & learning sessions-online (as well as in person). This may also be a good time to remember that, like the Bluebird of Happiness, help can be found at home- from our colleagues who have had to go online to accommodate family moves or, especially, from those who teach students how to “do” law as well as “think about it.” They are well ahead in their use of technology–and we should be seeking their help at every turn.

Online Education Experts Outside of Law Schools

It is no diminution of any one’s expertise to say that legal education’s expertise in online education has been severely limited by the strength of opposition that until very recently limited ABA law schools from allowing students to earn more than a few credits online. That this has changed at all is due to the success of peers in other graduate and professional disciplines who have been doing high quality distance education for at least a decade.  So, 1) let’s look at the experts in online education and 2) let’s look at the materials of institutions who have devoted considerable resources to teaching excellence–and who have generously made available to all of us what they’ve developed.

Nursing education has been in the forefront of designing online education in response to the need to bring the many nurses practicing with an LPN the two years of extra college education they needed to acquire the now almost mandatory RN. Here and here are some of the imaginative things they are doing. Also, in direct response to concerns about prestige, have a look at what’s going on in business schools–which have all developed online programs. Here’s MIT, Wharton, Harvard, ,and Kellogg‘s take on online teaching. Additionally, we should look for guidance to programs at places like Stanford and  Purdue Global which offer hundreds of online post-graduate programs.  And finally, perhaps just as much for those who are now either law professors or Pre-K through 12 instructors, there is the example of Australia’s “School of the Air” which, since 1951, has been offering comprehensive education in every subject area to children who live in locations too remote to attend a physical school building as well as, in general, some very good teaching resources offered by various offices of Australia’s Department for Education.

Institutions Offering Just-in-Time Teaching Advice for “Crash” online education

In addition to those institutions with long experience teaching online, there are now many who were forced into doing so by the Covid-19 virus.  But unlike law schools, they had in place a substantial infra-structure to support teaching across the university–and they have a lot to offer us. One of my favorite sources of help & inspiration for teaching hard things to very smart students is Harvard Medical School’s Macy Institute.

Others resources to check out are from the, of course, always excellent UFL and Texas Tech and also from Columbia, Howard, the University of Texas at Austin, and, particular,  this one from Dartmouth about how to conduct remote lab activities and experiences–lots of ideas we can translate to our own experiential exercises. A quick look at the “teaching resources” of any school you’ve ever heard of may reveal a treasure trove of helpful information.

Finally, as we work to provide excellent education online we must also increase our work to make law school classrooms places that value & promote equity, diversity, and inclusion. Here are some helpful resources from Rice, UC Davis, and some info targeted directly at students with specific learning disabilities which might make online classes challenging from UNC (including some resources specifically for faculty & staff)

In conclusion, while there are excellent resources for help with online teaching specific to law, this is a great opportunity to be more open to borrowing new methods and new ideas–and I’d suggest that until we can all be together again, there is a lot out there to inspire us.

Jennifer S. Bard, Visiting Professor, University of Florida, Levin College of Law

Developing Skepticism as a Skill – Some quick thoughts on why academic support should be thought of as separate from bar preparation/bar support

This summer’s bar exam with its uncertain timing, combined with the impact of the pandemic and the growing movement to transform parts of the legal system, brings to the fore the impact of the bar exam on legal education.  The pandemic itself has adversely affected student learning generally.  The pandemic’s adverse impact exacerbates the problems associated with teaching to the bar exam, which can best be described as when a law school directs its focus to a narrow range of subjects. This narrow focus subsequently influences student learning and choice as well as the type of support we provide to students. If for no other reasons than these, academic support ought not to have as its focus helping students pass the bar; that bar exam focus should belong more uniquely to bar prep faculty.

The bar exam is an enormous hurdle, no doubt.  Through hundreds of questions over two or three days, it tests one’s basic knowledge of black letter law of roughly fourteen subjects or seven topics and pages of sub-topics depending on how you count.[i]  Generally, those MBE subjects include contracts and sales; constitutional law; criminal law and procedure; civil procedure; evidence; real property, and torts. Any jurisdiction that offers the MEE has essay questions that cover, in addition to the MBE topics, Conflict of Laws, Family Law, Trusts & Estates, and Uniform Commercial Code.[ii] Notice that these topics are fairly related and tend to cluster, though not entirely, in the general commercial law and litigation area with some exceptions. Of course, each state may have its own requirements. And, for students, preparing for this exam can be a costly undertaking. Multiple vendors provide preparatory materials, advertised online at between $1900 and $4200. Because passing this exam is still the door (in most cases) to licensure, supporting student success on the bar exam is obviously vital.[iii]

Given that the bar exam has been offered in some form from as early as 1738 (in Delaware) and in its present form by the NCBE since 1972, and that the topics tested by the bar examiners have been consistent since that time,[iv] my bar prep colleagues have essentially committed to memory all of that material – so much so, that at any given time, they can say to our students: “that topic has been assessed on every bar exam since 2000,” or “you’ll need this for the bar exam,” or “you don’t need to know that for the exam.” Those colleagues are expert in approaching the bar exam and provide tools to help students approach bar exam essay questions – both reading them and writing responses, and ways to approach multiple choice questions.  And, one of the most often heard suggestions for studying is to keep taking the practice questions.

But, there are other areas of law: Administrative Law, Environmental Law, Immigration Law, Mental Health Law, Bankruptcy Law, Indigenous Peoples Law, Disability Law, Poverty Law, Pensions and Benefits Law, Maritime Law, International Law, Intellectual Property Law, Copyright Law, Cyber/Cybersecurity Law, Identity Justice Law, Health Law, Employment Law, Voting Law, and Tax Law, to name just a few, that are not tested on the bar exam in most states. And now, there is this extraordinary transformational legal change in which we find ourselves. This long list of topics and current events beg the question(s!): ‘If we focus our attention on preparing[v] students for the bar exam, this exam with this same set of topics,[vi] what are we, as members of the legal profession saying about the law?[vii]  If our best advice is to keep taking the practice questions that lead to the same result, what are we saying about the law?  About the importance of other areas of law?’

I am confident my bar prep colleagues are doing excellent work preparing students for the bar exam.  I recognize the examiners have added practice components. I’m not saying we should add questions, though, law has developed significantly over the decades; and, I am not arguing we should not have a bar exam – although given the responses of various jurisdictions to the pandemic, there’s an argument to be made.[viii]

Putting aside whether a future bar exam should look like the one given now, what I am saying is that academic support should not focus on a bar exam. Actually, most academic support situations arise in one’s first year of law school – far distant from the bar exam. Academic support can help students learn to be skeptical and not accept the given response, to sit with ambiguity (not the ‘answer’), and to write not only proof of a conclusion, but also to write toward a developing understanding. Someone who provides academic support for law school success should not address the idea of whether a student would need something for the singular purpose of the bar exam. Instead, the person who provides academic support should encourage the student to do and learn more, both for their time during law school and after.

I recognize that many faculty teaching doctrinal courses take upon themselves the task of helping students learn the complexity of laws as well as skills needed to succeed in law school. In recognition of both the need for these skills and difficulty of incorporating them into the 1L, Harvard Law has developed the Zero-L program that introduces students to the framework around law as well as other basic skills[ix]. Even then, however, trying to fully develop such skills in a doctrinal course, especially 1L courses, is difficult. In using the Socratic method, in many instances, the professor either winds up passing over particular students or calling out particular students. Either way, the larger class does not benefit, because either the material is not covered or the class slows. Additionally, the individual student does not benefit, either because they are humiliated or stigmatized. Moreover, those who teach “bar courses,” feel compelled to devote as much time as possible teaching the material that will be covered later on the bar exam itself, leaving little time to devote to helping students at the edges of a class.[x]  This alone, this classroom and school-wide focus on the sub-topics of a course that the bar exam will test is troubling, even if practical, under the present circumstances. Academic support, though, need not focus on those same topics. Academic support can help students in some of the other levels of thinking while in law school and provide support about approaching legal topics that are less well settled than, say, “the rule against perpetuities” (that was tested as recently as 2013 – I think.)

If it is the case that one of the best ways to learn material is to practice it, to take practice “assessments,” then students will learn their material by doing just that, and practice assessments are a recognized tool for mastering a body of material.  However, learning a body of material alone is not enough for success in law school.  While academic support can certainly help students build techniques for understanding and remembering, analogizing, and distinguishing, it is uniquely positioned to explicitly help students develop the skill sets beyond memorizing such as: how to figure out what questions to ask rather than answer, and how to challenge or critique a response. Take for example a skepticism skill. Here, in addition to teasing out what a court says in a decision, students learn to ask whether what a judge says is itself supported by proof; if so, what proof, and does the proof survive the “Aw come on” test.[xi] This skill is, of course, developed in class, but students at the start of law school often confuse skepticism and critique with their own opinion. At some point, class moves on, but the students can still benefit from support – not in the doctrine itself, but in skepticism. This skepticism skill need not be topic specific and is less likely to be useful on a bar exam than other skills, but will serve them remarkably well in practice.

Academic support can of course be, and is, many other things for students.  I’m not suggesting those things change. I’m simply suggesting we think about bar support doing what it is meant to do: prepare students to take multiple choice and essay questions on a set of the same topics semi-annually.  And then, we can think of academic support as designed to help students thrive while in law school itself.

———————————————-

[i] http://www.ncbex.org/pdfviewer/?file=%2Fdmsdocument%2F226   I have not included questions of the different states for their particular licensing.

[ii] The questions are drafted by the NCBE with the assistance of academics and experts in the fields being tested. The answers, as seems obvious, are based on law existing at the time the questions were created.

[iii] We support students with bar preparation programs and classes. As to the latter, the ABA has put its imprimatur on bar support to the extent of permitting students to take, as part of their academic program in law schools, with several credits of bar preparation classes depending on jurisdiction.  Bar support classes have become an integral part of law school programs.

[iv] Assessing the bar exam itself an ongoing task with studies in several states to assess the efficacy of the test format and connection to skills of practice. https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/members_of_abas_commission_on_the_future_of_legal_education_named  (2017);   https://www.abajournal.com/web/article/building-a-better-bar-exam (2020).  The National Conference of Bar Examiners has its own task force to assess the efficacy of its test. https://testingtaskforce.org/. It is schedule to release a report based on its September survey of Practice Analysis. Thus, the bar exam and bar success occupy a lot of space and time during law school.

[v] We also support student success with a growing number of student-wellness programs, and this in turn is supported by the ABA Young Lawyers Division that has a health and wellness division with resources available to law schools and their students as well as lawyers.

[vi] Topics tested for the past fifty years, though, civil procedure was recently added.

[vii] Never mind the practice of law. At law schools, we help students develop “practice ready” skills in clinics. While it appears the majority of clinics which are litigation-focused clinics, and the subject matter is far broader than the corporate-commercial law bar topic focus, there are so few if any clinics on developing policy, on ethical lobbying, or on transnational practice.

[viii] There are also arguments that the bar exam topics overly emphasize areas of law in the commercial law context to the detriment of other areas of law.

[ix] https://online.law.harvard.edu/.  This year, with the coronavirus, Harvard is offering this program “for free” to other schools. https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2020/05/harvard-makes-online-zero-l-course-free-for-all-us-law-schools-due-to-coronavirus.html.

[x] And, this idea of ensuring bar coverage is common.  https://jle.aals.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1299&context=home

[xi] I am sure this phrase, “aw come on” has been used over time by many.  I first heard it from a professor I had in a first-year, year-long contracts class.

Oregon Law Deans Urge Diploma Privilege

Law schools in Oregon are urging the Oregon Supreme Court to institute a Diploma privilege given the precarious public health moment in which we find ourselves.

The Willamette Week reported that on June 15,

the deans of the state’s three law schools—the University of Oregon, Lewis & Clark, and Willamette University—asked Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters to waive the July bar exam, which new graduates from the law schools normally take.

The deans’ letter notes

We are deeply appreciative of the efforts of the Oregon State Bar and the Board of Bar Examiners to administer the July exam at multiple sites—including our law schools—in order to try to socially distance the applicants from each other in light of COVID-19,” the deans wrote. “But as the number of new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases continues to increase steadily in our state, this plan becomes more imprudent.”

Advocates and bar takers compiled this google document of the health, mental health and financial harm which will be done by instituting a live in-person exam.

Meanwhile, the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners added a new waiver requirement.  It is requiring bar takers to sign a waiver assuming all risk with respect to COVID 19.  See  COVID-19_assumption of risk.

The Deans and law students are quite reasonable and prudent in requesting this relief. Oregon’s worrisome rise in the number of new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, as well as the unequal impact of this virus on communities of color, makes the one-time issuance of a Diploma Privilege for these Oregonian bar candidates the right thing to do.

Defund the Police or Reimagine Policing

On behalf of Josephine Ross, Professor of Law at Howard University School of Law, Author of forthcoming book “A Feminist Critique of Police Stops” (Cambridge University Press, anticipated publication date mid-January 2021)

I was invited to post a blog because I have been working on a book about policing while all around us, the protests are changing the landscape. This is mostly figurative, but in some cases it is literally changing, as the streets in DC are now painted with Black Lives Matter = Defund the Police.

So I’ll start there, with the slogan “Defund the Police.” I’ve been grappling with whether the phrase feeds into the hands of Republicans by scaring people who should be allies. Why not use “Reimagine Policing” instead? Is defunding the police saying something different than reimagine? For white people like me or, as Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, “Americans who believe they are white,” we are called right now to support the dismantling of the racist power structure, the system that led to the death of Eric Gardner and George Floyd, of Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery, of Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. There is no sitting on the fence. In that vein, I invite us to think about what the slogan means.

Whatever its drawbacks, the slogan has already spurred some changes. The Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution to “replace the police department with a community-led public safety system.” This involves reimagining policing for sure, but it defunds the old in order start fresh, with different personnel and structure, with anti-racist professionals.

Calls to defund also force us to look at how police departments waste taxpayer money. My book builds on stories my students told me about their encounters with police. Howard law students told me about being stopped and frisked or pulled over for driving while black. None of their encounters helped make our communities safer. Stop-and-frisk is a form of sexual harassment. Just like unwanted touching at work, people who have been stopped repeatedly by police feel vulnerable just walking down the street. Repeated stops create a hostile environment, but it’s easier to quit a job to avoid a boss than it is to avoid the police. I call for the abolition of the stops and frisks (without probable cause) and argue that Terry v. Ohio was built on a lie. No more stops without probable cause. No more consent stops. No more patting people’s groins, pretending that’s where they might have hidden a small weapon that they will pull out while the officer talks to them.

When I talked to people outside the law school about what I was writing, I was often asked what would replace stop-and-frisk? The answer is nothing. Reimagine policing without harassment. The slogan “defund the police” speaks to this too, for why pay money for a system that subjugates us? If an organized patrol was set up to wolf whistle at young women on the street or harass women at work, we would call for them to be defunded. We would not seek retraining and education. We would dismantle it.

I think there’s still a need for a police-like agency that’s given a monopoly on violence. This unit must respond quickly to calls of rape or home invasions. Some type of detectives must investigate murders. The question is whether this police-like structure can be created from the same institutions that shot Philando Castile and kill approximately one thousand people each year. I remember when a Howard Law School student complained to me that “officials talk about blacks regaining trust as if we had trust before. We never had it.” It might be easier to build trust by defunding the old and creating something new.

I confess to writing Defund the Police on a sign before standing at the busy corner where my white neighbors stand (6 feet away) at 6pm to show support for the protesters. I figure that most law professors think they do more by writing and teaching. But I think it’s important to support our students, especially our black students, by adding our bodies to the sea of people calling for real change, not just the same lipstick job that’s been going on since Rodney King’s beating in 1991. I chose the Defund the Police sign because it pushes the envelope and forced me to really think about the slogan. I recommend taking some action no matter what your deadline and no matter what you draw on the cardboard. It makes us feel part of something bigger than ourselves.

Washington’s Emergency Diploma Privilege: A Practical Solution for Troubled Times

The Washington Supreme Court stands as a model for other courts to follow.  Recognizing the “extraordinary barriers” facing bar applicants this year, it recently issued an order allowing for licensure via diploma privilege as an option for graduates of ABA accredited law schools who are currently registered for either the July or September 2020 Washington bar examination. The order encompasses first time and repeat takers.  Examinees may still take the UBE if they want portable scores.

This order comes from the same court that recently wrote a powerful letter to the judiciary and legal community about our responsibility to recognize systemic issues that underlie and perpetuate racial injustice and to dismantle and disavow those systems.  As the justices noted:

“Too often in the legal profession, we feel bound by tradition and the way things have ‘always’ been.  We must remember that even the most venerable precedent must be struck down when it is incorrect and harmful”.

Numerous scholars have long argued that the existing bar exam, with its discriminatory impact, and its lack of relationship to skills needed for law practice, is a tradition that should be abandoned in favor of a licensing scheme that better measures minimum competence to practice law.

Scholars also have argued that we particularly need this year’s new lawyers because under-served communities have significantly increased pandemic-related legal needs and new lawyers disproportionately serve those needs.

As Dean Annette Clark wrote in an eloquent letter explaining why her faculty unanimously voted in favor of asking the Court to adopt a diploma privilege – this year is unlike any other.  This year, she writes, law graduates face pandemic-related health and financial issues  – issues that disproportionately impact communities of color.  This year, she notes, the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and the social unrest and calls to action that followed have affected graduates and have taken a particularly heavy emotional and mental toll on graduates of color.

This year, the mere act of taking the bar exam endangers examinees’ and their loved ones’ health– something states recognize because they are requiring examinees to sign waivers.  This year, graduates worry that after months of studying, public health issues may cause states to cancel the exam at the last minute.

While a pure diploma privilege may not be an appropriate long-term law licensing solution for most states, it is a practical solution given today’s world.   As Dean Clark states:

 “While requiring a bar exam for licensure is supported by long precedent, doing so now may be insupportable given the extraordinary circumstances these graduates are facing. The burdens of the coronavirus pandemic and the racial unrest we are experiencing are being disproportionately borne by our graduates of color as they struggle to prepare for the bar exam.  Removing the exam barrier to admission would be a step in responding to our graduates’ concerns and in bringing “greater racial justice to our system as a whole.”

Dean Clark’s  letter should be read in its entirety.  It sets forth strong arguments that should be presented to all state supreme courts with a request for re-consideration of the decision to hold a traditional bar exam this year.  It also lays the groundwork for why each state should establish a post-pandemic study group to evaluate whether the existing bar exam is the best way to determine admission to the bar.

Kudos to the Washington Supreme Court, as well as to the deans, faculty and students at the Washington law schools for their advocacy.  Their solution addresses problems faced by all of this year’s graduates while also addressing inequities that cannot be denied.

 

Let’s Take this Unprecedented period of Rapid Change to Consider What Can We Learn from the Delay of Fall On-Campus Interviewing: Further Thoughts on Equity and Inclusion

 

Jennifer S. Bard, Visiting Professor, University of Florida, Levin College of Law

In Tuesday’s post I suggested that we take the opportunity of dramatic, unexpected, and unwanted change delivered to legal education by the arrival of the Covid-19 virus and the need to rapidly revise decades, if not centuries, of conventions regarding grading and ranking that are tailored to the needs of a majority culture representative of the Harvard Law School Class of 1880 for whom it was created.

I also suggested that these historic grading conventions encouraged the persistent lack of diversity in our profession.

Today, I look at the opportunity that the likely delay of Fall (late summer) On-Campus Recruiting provides to evaluate one of the justifications for these grading practices which is the need to support our students’ ability to compete for the most high paying post-graduate jobs: employment at a “Big Law” firm (usually defined as one of about 200 firms employing more than 200 lawyers).  I take as a starting point the foundational point of this post: we don’t have the information we need to make good decisions about the consequences of the curricular conventions common to almost every U.S. law school.

We do know, however, that despite efforts (at varying levels of success) among law schools  to diversify their student bodies, this has had little effect on the diversification of the legal profession.  There is, moreover,  persistent evidence,  that discrimination plays a role in the interviewing practices of Big Law Firms and impacts the careers of those who are hired.  This could be intensified by the Covid-19 related slowdown of the economy.

What if our current  student grading and ranking practices are both 1) not in the best interests of the education of most of our students and 2) are playing an unwitting role in the lack of diversity in the legal profession by over-emphasizing early success?

The  first hint that a nearly universally adopted grading system based on sorting students for the benefit of Big Law firms may not be in anyone’s best interests is the absolute lack of uniformity in the role that Big Law plays in the employment of law students.  Consider, for a moment,  what we would think of a medical treatment that was administered to all patients but developed to help only 20% of patients or a restaurant that served food that would be appealing to only 20% of its customers–not much probably.  Yet despite serious efforts by many smart and caring people, the basic structure of legal education is exactly that.  81% of the roughly 190 (ties play a role in the count) law schools ranked by the otherwise defunct magazine, U.S. News & World Reports, send less than 20% of their graduates to Big Law firms. Only 9 law schools (all within the top 15) had 70% or more of their graduates employed at graduation with big law firms. Stick with this list of numbers, because it may surprise you.

The next 5 law schools had 60% of its students working in Big Law, 7 had 40%, 7 had 30%,  9 had 20%, 2 had 19 %, 4 had 18%, 6 had 17%, 6 had 16%, 5 had 15%, 2 had 14%, 4 had 13%, 2 had 12%, 11 had 11%. 10  had 10% and the rest-80 more law schools,-had less than 10% of their students employed by a Big Law firm at graduation.  Of that 80, thirty had less than 5% and 14 had zero.  Yet despite the vast differences in the likelihood that any student at any class rank will be hired by a Big Law Firm, almost every one of these schools has some form of grading curve and comparative ranking.

What would happen if most law schools took a step back-and just stopped?  What if they developed a grading system best suited to their educational goals of having the most students reach the highest possible level of legal competency?

The cynical answer is that Big Law would simply by-pass them in favor of the few that continued ranking.  But not so fast.  While there’s no basis to say that Big Law is unhappy with the pool they get from this practice, they certainly are aware that their hiring practices are very inefficient, and are giving increasing thought to how they might do better. Perhaps the pyramidal business model of today’s Big Law firm is an  historic accommodation to their hiring methods,  not a desirable outcome.  Also, current hiring methods are not resulting in the kind of diversity that their clients are asking them to achieve.  Indeed, many law firms, notably Holland & Knight, are working hard to increase diversity.

They also probably know how atypical their reliance on grades is among comparable organizations hiring graduate students. Kellogg Business School Professor and Sociologist Lauren Rivera’s book Pedigree recounts her research based on “embedding” herself in the hiring practices of law firms, banks, and consulting firms.  What she finds is not surprising—all three industries are more interested in the prestige of the graduate school than in the actual ability of any individual student.  But only law firms fail to incorporate any kind of competency based evaluation in the admissions process.   At least in part, this is because prestigious business school have long refused to even release grades to employers.  Thus, employers have had to develop an interview process that involves analyzing case studies, behavior based interviewing, and answering technical questions. We see similar retreats from grade based hiring in medical residency programs.

Would the tests that law firms themselves develop be any more equitable than the ones that, cumulatively, make up a GPA?  Maybe not.  But they could be more targeted toward what students learned in law school, rather than what they brought in with them.

So, given this opportunity for a pause in the hiring cycle and a freeze, for many schools, in the first year ranking process we could partner with our university collogues who conduct research in higher education, such as that on the curricular barriers to the success of underrepresented populations in STEM education, to see if what we are doing achieves the results we want.  And if not, to start the process of working with the legal profession to achieve something we both want: a diverse and equitably recruited cohort of lawyers who provide the highest possible quality of representation for their clients.

Let’s Take This Period of Unprecedented Change to Consider How Grading Practices Can Affect Issues of Diversity and Inclusion in Our Law Schools

Jennifer S. Bard, Visiting Professor, University of Florida, Levin College of Law

For the last half of spring semester 2020, law schools all over the country were forced to change their method of instruction, delivery of final exams, and (in many cases) grading practices because of the demands for physical isolation following the outbreak of Covid-19.  Now that the semester is over, there is a further round of disruption as many states have delayed or even cancelled their bar exams, some have granted graduates diploma privileges, while others bravely go ahead in the face of a possibility that they will have to cancel at the last minute because of ever-rising rates of infection. 

Like the opportunities that may arise when a river is drained and a ship revealed, there may never again be such an opportunity for us to consider what role we play in the glacially slow diversification of the legal profession and how we can make our law schools more equitable, inclusive, challenging, and effective for all of our students—not just those for whom it has been particularly well suited.

With many things to choose from, my starting point for looking at things we rarely question is the marrow deep belief that we owe it to our students to sort them for the benefit of large law firms—even when our employment profile shows that very few of our students will ever work at such a place.  Since the threshold for this opportunity is a top 5 or perhaps 10 percent class rank, it may seem odd, on reflection, that we have designed a curriculum designed to compare students that may have many undesirable consequences including undermining self-esteem, discouraging learning for learning’s sake, and contributing to the lack of diversity in the legal profession.  

Over the years, other justifications have been added such as the need to motivate students or assess their progress but never have we had such a good opportunity to see what law school is like without grades or, more to the point, comparative curves.

Here are some Practices We Might Question

The Primacy of First Semester Grades

One result of the decision to go pass/fail (or some variation of the words) was to “freeze” first year first semester class ranks because it was impossible to produce comparative curves

The resulting phenomena gives us a chance to ask ourselves  some tough questions:

  1. Do First Semester Grades Reflect What Students Bring to Law School Rather Than What We Bring to Them? OR Do Students Who Come in Knowing the Rules Get Better First Semester Grades?

Many students, very often First Generation Students, but also some facing racial or gender identity or expression based discrimination, frequently tell us (and the many researchers who study first generation college students) some version of “everyone knew the game but me and by the time I figured it out, it was too late.” And while students living with disabilities might intersect with any of these groups, they also are often using new adaptive equipment and certainly facing new challenges that they may have been able to mitigate in college.

Certainly many of our students do know the game from the start.  The recent AALS survey “Before the JD” found a disproportionate number of students who ended up going to law school had parents who were either lawyers or professionals. While students have, themselves, created organizations to support each-other usually with the enthusiastic support of the law school it may not be enough.

Our challenge going forward is that history is told by the victors.  We can see the students who were not comfortable the first semester but then continued to graduate “at the top of their class” (a vague term that usually means somewhere in the top 20%), but we don’t hear from the ones who didn’t draw attention through academic distress, but also didn’t thrive.

It would be helpful to know more–and many schools do know more about their own students.  But so little of this information is published.

Much is being done in supplemental programs- to name them is to leave many out- such as pre-first semester programs, orientation programs  and excellent pre-law institutes like the Tennessee Institute for Pre-Law , and in wonderful conferences organized by the National Black Law Students AssociationLavender Law, the National Association of Law Students with Disabilities,  and so many others.  

But how much more effective would it be to have a curriculum that was truly equitable and inclusive – all the way through?

2. Did Pass/Fail Grading Help Learning, Hinder Learning, or None of the Above?

Across the board pass/fail grading that makes no effort to compare students to each other is so unusual as to make any observations worth considering. The expectation was a distressing list of bad results-students putting in less effort during class, performing worse on exams — but did that really happen?

3. Ditto Open Book Exams

As above, it would be interesting to test, in the fall, the content knowledge of students who took open exams.  Not so much as to compare them with past classes, but to see what how much they learned.

4. What Will Be the Long Term Effect of the Delayed or Cancelled Bar Exams–and How Might that Change Our Curriculums?

The opportunity presented by the necessary changes to the bar exam is already in very good hands, (thank you AccesLex) but it’s still worth considering what the future will look like in states which choose provisional or full licensure.  Even decisions to delay the bar exam could raise issues of an on-going, career long licensing process, much as many doctors (but not all) must take requalifying exams every ten years to retain their “Board Certificate.” What would that mean for law schools?

To Be Continued: Part II: What Can We Learn from the Delay of Fall On-Campus Interviewing?   

Risking Illness and Death For The Chance To Become A Lawyer


In this blog post Professor Allie Robbins eloquently sets out why, during this crisis, states should implement alternative law licensing methods. She argues states should forego in-person exams this year to avoid the inevitable health risks to bar-takers, their families, and the members of the public who come into contact with them. The entire blog is set out below. It’s a powerful piece that hopefully will find its way to state boards of bar examiners and state supreme court justices as “food for thought”.

“Please do not hold the bar exam this year. Do not hold it in July. Do not hold it in September. Maybe not even next February. Figure out a better way to license attorneys. There are many options.

Recent liability waivers from Mississippi and North Carolina demonstrate that you understand the serious dangers posed by taking a two-day exam in person surrounded by a lot of other people. The fact that you are finding it difficult to find proctors and are asking for help from “young attorneys” says that your own people are telling you it is too risky.

Putting hundreds, or even dozens, of stressed out people in a room together for hours and hours in the midst of a global pandemic is a public health disaster. Temperature checks only tell you if someone has a fever, not whether someone has the virus. Many transmissions if COVID-19 occur from asymptomatic individuals. Masks are helpful, but not 100% effective. Some of you are permitting masks but not requiring them, leaving many potential carriers the option of exposing those around them. Have you tried to do 100 MBE questions with a mask on? The anxiety surrounding the bar exam is immeasurably high in normal times. This, is taking it to an unimaginable new level.

There doesn’t have to be a bar exam. But if you think there does, you can do it online, as Nevada and Indiana will be doing. Those of you in UBE states may feel that you no longer have the capacity to administer your own exam. But you did it not that long ago. You can do it again. There are expert exam writers at your local law schools who can help. You could even work together and have each state draft one essay question. There are many options. Please explore them.

There are concerns about exam security. But if that is the driving force for having an in person exam, then you are prioritizing fears about cheating over the protection of human life. Do you really think so little of the next class of attorneys that they must risk their lives to prove to you that they would not cheat on an exam?

Ask yourself honestly, would you take the bar exam during this pandemic? Would you encourage your child to? Do you really want to be responsible for the next surge in your community?

You may counter that hundreds of applicants have registered so they must want to take it. But what they want is to be a licensed attorney. Their registration is a product of employer pressure, fear, and the perverse incentives of the legal profession. Despite their registration, they are terrified.

We owe it to the newest members of our profession not to sacrifice their health for the sake of the status quo. Nothing is the same right now, and it shouldn’t be. We are in the midst of a worldwide health crisis. Is the bar exam actually worth risking their lives for? Is there really no way to determine who is minimally competent to be an attorney, other than to have them all gathered together in a room for two days?

The purpose of the bar exam is, ostensibly, to protect the public. What about protecting law graduates?

These waivers may protect you from legal liability, but if you go forward with an in-person bar exam, you will still be responsible for spreading COVID-19 throughout the population of new law graduates, their friends, families, and communities. How can this possibly be the right decision?”



Law Students Lead Intersectionally

“At this painful time, I see law students leading in the intersectional manner that will move us forward. I have attached Albany Law Affinity Groups student statement here. Please feel free to post and comment what your students are doing!”  ML

——–

Hello everyone,

I hope you are safe and well. Some of Albany Law’s student groups wanted to take a moment to address current events.

Our fellow students are suffering in ways we cannot imagine. The deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other members of the black community are a tragedy and a disgrace. OUTLaw, Latin American Law Student Association, Women’s Law Caucus, Muslim Law Students Association, and Asian Pacific American Law Students Association denounce racist actions against the black community. We promise solidarity with black students and the Black Law Students Association. And as student leaders entering the legal profession, we will take active steps to fight systemic racism and provide support in our fields.

On behalf of all of us: We love you. We are here for you. We see your pain and grief. We will make space for you. We will listen to you. We will share your stories. We will follow your lead. We will fight for you. We encourage other clubs and groups to make similar commitments. Active support means everything.

If you have the resources, please donate to any of the organizations listed below:
Citizen Action of New York
New York State NAACP
National Bail Fund Network
American Civil Liberties Union
Minnesota Freedom Fund
Black Visions Minnesota
Campaign Zero
Reclaim the Block

And/or give your time and support by signing petitions and reaching out to public officials. A master list of petitions and numbers is available at blacklivesmatters.carrd.co

We are stronger together,

OUTLaw, LALSA, WLC, MLSA, and APALSA

MOVING FORWARD: DAY TWO OF DREXEL (and some favorite poetic quotes)

Congratulations are in order to Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, to Dean Dan Filler and to all who planned and presented at the virtual conference.  LEANING INTO UNCERTAINTY: ENSURING QUALITY LEGAL EDUCATION DURING CORONAVIRUS.  Previously,  I wrote a few thoughts about Day One of the conference.  In this post, I will focus on Day Two. But first, good news for those of you who were unable to join virtually: Drexel’s Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Research, Alex C. Geisinger, plans to create a digest of the ideas and questions raised and discussed at the conference. As law schools face the evolving uncertainty presented by both the virus and the conflicting responses of our state and federal leaders, they will benefit from the kind of collaborative efforts and stimulating exchange of ideas that the Drexel conference organizers skillfully facilitated.  As I work with my law school colleagues to plan an exciting and enriching Fall 2020 Semester, I am using the wisdom gained from the conference. A few maxims from yesterday’s gathering stayed with me:
  • Acknowledge and name your biggest WORRY.
  • In crisis, there is OPPORTUNITY.
  • There is always ANOTHER crisis, we just don’t know what it will be.
I was reminded by the wise words of William Butler Yeats

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold  

Below I share five conference discussions which interested me. 1.  Relationships Still Matter and Matter Even More We know from LSSSE that for health and wellness and law students “Relationships Matter.”  How do we prioritize and facilitate those in a virtual or partly virtual world?
  • Phone call contact with each incoming 1L to find out worries, concerns, and hopes and model that relationships with individuals at the school matter.
  • Throughout semester, should teachers, staff, and administrators be polling the mood of the day or the week?
  • Set up a more systematic “social work case management system” to keep tabs on individual student, staff, and faculty wellness.
  • Provide in a simple format directly to each student in a personal phone call, meeting, or interaction a single document which outlines who the actual person and contact is when in trouble – academically, financially, emotionally, physically.  Maybe start this process over the summer using all employees  throughout the law school?  (CALI worked on a lesson that each school can use to modify the system or contact flow Lesson is at https://www.cali.org/lesson/18103)
  • Prioritize peer-to-peer opportunities for mentoring, collaboration, and synergy.
2.    Create Distinct “Places” for Students To Be
  • Virtual Libraries
  • Virtual Study Spaces
  • Virtual Social Spaces
  • Dedicated physical place for experiential learners to access supplies – not necessarily in clinic office space.
Makes me think of having students feel they have in the words of poet Mary Oliver’s a “place in the family of things”
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting— over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
3. Anticipate Enforcing Safety and Health Regulations During A Polarized Presidential Election Season
  • Messaging and Communication of Community Rules
  • Incorporate into Student and Personnel Regulations
  • Harder to Anticipate What Will Happen in a Public School Setting
4.  What changes are Temporary? What Will Continue after the Pandemic? Although forced to engage in Remote Emergency Teaching, Professors became facile with useful pedagogical online tools and will incorporate them into their general toolbox.
  • Investment already made in technology will accelerate usage.
  • This was all going to happen anyway as part of Law School 2.0?
  • Increasing options for law students? For institutions growing online programming?
  • Will law schools and universities be more open to allowing staff to work remotely?
  • Will we better appreciate, celebrate, and prioritize the importance of presence and in-person relationship in Higher Ed Learning?
5. With the impact of COVID-19 elevating the issues of access disparity and the diverse needs of our students, how can law schools minimize the threat to learning continuity and academic success?
  • Continue to modify assessment and grading practices?
  • Financial Insecurity?
    • Loss of Employment
    • Food Insecurity  – Virtual Food Pantry
    • Rent and Housing
    • Alums offered physical space (offices) for students without good space to study and take exams.
  • Supporting caregivers and others with outside responsibilities.
  • Evolving accommodations for students with disabilities and immune-suppressed students as we change the manner and methods of teaching.
The above five are a poor summary of the many ideas and queries raised at the conference and thus I look forward to the report back. As we arrive at the end of May 2020, take courage and know we are all in this TOGETHER!
One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.  Maya Angelou

“Take-Aways” from Day 1 of Drexel Conference

Over 1,000 legal educators are taking part in a two day conference “Leaning into Uncertainty: Ensuring Quality Legal Education During Coronavirus,”  hosted by Drexel Law School and University.  Brief opening plenary remarks were made by Northwestern Law Professor Daniel Rodriguez who cautioned against “virtue signaling” noting that today on May 26th, we don’t know the choices students, faculty and others will make in August.   He called for legal educators to work across law schools to engage in “Collaboration on Steroids!”

After very brief “framing” discussions of questions, participants were assigned into scores of breakout groups.  Today’s Roundtable topics included:

Roundtable 1: Beyond Zoom! Moving from Emergency Virtual Classrooms to a Rigorous, Engaging Online Experience

Roundtable 2: Designing Curriculum and Programs in a World of Social Distancing: Sections, Schedules and Changing Circumstances

Roundtable 3: Maintaining High Quality Experiential Learning Opportunities from a Distance

Each breakout group recorder took notes which will be compiled into a report.  The hope is to make the lessons from the conference useful this summer as legal educators re-imagine law school operations and adapt our teaching methods and designs to meet student and public health needs.

I was able to participate in Roundtable 1 and 3 and found the discussions useful in thinking about my summer course redesign, the needs of our Justice Center, and the different way different schools can adapt and innovate. I jotted down a few “take-aways:”

General 

  • Time and Space are no longer the same as they were pre-pandemic.
  • To be a good teacher virtually, just like teaching in residence,  you have to be YOU!
  • What parts of your teaching are MOST important to be Synchronous? and how do we move other parts to be asynchronous?
  • Who could we record now (besides ourselves!) that we can use for asynchronous learning this FALL .. For e.g., share a hypo with other faculty in your department, or other subject matter experts from other law schools, or practitioner experts and record their reaction to a hypothetical that you can assign students to review after having discussed the hypo in breakout groups and  reported back.
  • If we are socially distanced with masks, and spread apart in the classroom, and we are teaching both virtually (through the class streaming or recording) and in residence at the same time, what works for that kind of socially distanced teaching? Might Zoom sometimes work better?

Community Building Ideas

  • ESPECIALLY for 1L’s in building community – Use Zoom questions for registering to ask students community building questions regarding hobbies
  • Start now to create break out rooms for 1Ls pre-assigning over the summer with asking of human questions.
  • Opening up Zoom 10 minutes ahead as if you are standing by podium and can be asked questions
  • Reframe the week – conversation starts on chat or CANVAS before class and continue  into and after class. 
  • Offer off class opportunities for virtual tea, coffee, happy hours to discuss what’s happening with students generally or what’s happening in the world

Experiential

  • Take Advantage of this moment.  Clinics and experiential courses could serve as important front line workers for the unprecedented need for legal services.
  • How do we overcome barriers to actually get to the people in need and to get them what they need?
  • How do we teach students to be community and client-centered if we are not in the community but physically or socially distanced?
  • How do we prepare students and ourselves to perform competently in the world of virtual courts and lawyering when the rules, protocols and comfort level with the virtual differ across kind of state and federal courts and among different judges?
  • How do we build the people-centered core of clinical work that helps students develop skills, values and networks in interpersonal relationships?
  • How do we resource our students and clients for virtual legal practice?

Lots to chew on and looking forward to hearing more tomorrow!

A Sneaky Peek at CSALE 2019-20: Clinical Law Faculty and Their Courses – by Robert R. Kuehn, Washington University School of Law

The Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education (CSALE) is in the final weeks of collecting data for its 2019-20 tri-annual survey of clinical legal education.

The CSALE Master Survey was completed in the fall by over 94% of law schools; the follow up CSALE Sub-Survey was sent earlier this year to almost 2,000 law clinic and externship instructors. The ongoing Sub-Survey collects information on each instructor’s position and courses and will remain open for additional respondents until the end of May. CSALE will publish a detailed report on the 2019-20 survey, its fifth, in late summer, available with prior reports on its website.

But there’s no need to wait. Some of the data in the CSALE Master Survey is available now, and it shows both stability and change in clinical legal education. Relatively unchanged was the number of law clinics, with schools reporting 1,521 clinics, a median of 7 per school, unchanged over the last three surveys. Six schools offer no law clinics and three offer just one, while seven schools reported more than 20. There are some significant changes in the substantive focus of clinics. The most common now is Immigration (displacing Criminal Defense), offered at 63% of schools, a 34% increase in just three years. Intellectual Property clinics also greatly increased in number (at 35% of schools, up 50% from the last survey), as did Entrepreneur/Small Business (now at 36% of schools).

Student demand for law clinics is up slightly from CSALE’s 2016-17 survey, perhaps reflecting the new ABA six-credit experiential coursework graduation requirement. At 46% of schools, student demand for clinics increased over the past three years (compared to 38% in the last survey), while at only 10% did demand decrease (19% in last survey). In contrast, in the 2010-11 CSALE survey, 80% of schools experienced increased law clinic demand, while only 1% reported a decrease. The most common reasons given for decreased demand in the current survey were the school’s smaller student body and the students’ belief they should spent their time on bar subject courses.

With externships, criminal (prosecution and/or defense), government, judicial, and public interest law offices continue to be the most common types of field placement practice areas offered to students. A majority of placements continue to be in litigation or dispute resolution practice. At nine schools, 90% or more of placements are litigation/dispute resolution focused, while over 80 schools place less than 10% of their students in transaction-focused offices.

Similar to the last CSALE survey, over half of schools now allow students to receive more than 10 credits in a field placement course, with almost all of those schools (98%) permitting “full-time placements” outside the vicinity of the law school. Fewer than one quarter of schools permit students to extern with a law firm. And while 45% of schools prohibit placements at in-house counsel offices of for-profit entities, only four schools prohibit placements at not-for-profit entities. Compensation (paid externships) without conditions or limits, such as from law firms or for-profit corporations, is only offered at 17% of schools:

CompensationPercentage of Schools
Permitted, no conditions17%
Permitted, with conditions(e.g., source other than placement site)19%
Not Permitted64%

Demand for field placement courses is up slightly – 47% of schools report increased demand over the past three years (compared to 42% in the prior survey) – with decreased demand down from 15% of schools three years ago to just 7% in the current survey. Like law clinics, demand for field placement courses peaked in the 2010-11 survey when 76% of school reported increased demand and only 1% reported a decrease.

Looking at faculty changes, schools reported a median of 12 persons teaching in a law clinic or field placement course, full- or part-time, including adjuncts, staff attorneys, fellows, etc. This is up slightly from 11 per school in the last two CSALE surveys. The percentage of clinic and externship courses taught by full-time clinical faculty, however, continues to decrease. During this academic year, 65% of clinical teachers were full time, down from 72% full time in 2016-17, 78% in 2013-14, and 82% in 2010-11.

The status of those teaching full-time shows slightly more clinical teachers (law clinic and externship) on contract and somewhat fewer on some form of tenure (combining traditional and clinical tenure) – dropping to 29% after 35% in the three prior surveys:

Employment StatusCSALE  2010-11CSALE  2013-14CSALE  2016-17CSALE 2019-20
Contractual Appointment52%54%53%56%
Tenured/Tenure Track26%27%25%21%
Clinical Tenured/Clinical TT9%8%10%8%
Other7%4%6%7%
Non-Adjunct At Will4%3%____
Fellow7%4%3%8%
Administrator –w/ or w/out Faculty Title5%__

One third of all clinical faculty are on long-term, presumptively renewable contracts (or on short-term contracts leading to long-term renewable contracts), down slightly from the last two surveys, while 37% are in shorter term, less secure positions as staff attorneys, fellows, or at will administrative positions.

Contrary to worries about contraction of clinical faculty, at half the schools the number of total full-time clinical instructors has remained constant, while at 38% it has increased, and at 12% decreased. The main factors contributing to an increase were the addition of new law clinic or externship courses, while the main factors contributing to the decrease were the retirement/death or voluntary departure of a clinical faculty member without a replacement. Only 5% of schools attributed the decrease to layoffs, and only 5% attributed it to decreased student interest in law clinic or field placement courses.

Finally, this was the first CSALE survey after the implementation of the new six-credit experiential coursework requirement. In response to that new standard, approximately one third of schools made no changes to its courses. However, 43% of schools added new law clinic, field placement, or simulations courses, 30% restructured some previously non-experiential courses to become experiential, and 23% increased the number of slots available to students in existing clinic, field placement, or simulations courses. Ten percent of schools simply restructured an existing legal research and writing course to now be considered experiential. The new standard has had some impact on the first-year curriculum — one-fourth of schools now offer or require an experiential course. Yet, only seven schools offer or require a law clinic or field placement course as part of the first-year curriculum as 95% of first year experiential courses are simulations.

CSALE’s report on the 2019-20 survey will provide much more detail from the Master Survey on school-wide programs and policies and, from the Sub-Survey, data on specific types of courses and teacher status and demographics. If information is power, there is great power in CSALE data to guide decisions on clinical programs, courses, and faculty. But, that information is only as good as what CSALE can collect. If you received an invitation to the survey and have not yet filled it out, please add your answers to CSALE’s nationwide database.

CLEA Joins SALT in Urging Council to Suspend Accreditation Standard 316

Previously, we posted the Society of American Law Teacher’s statement calling for the Council on Legal Education to suspend law school Accreditation Standard 316 “in light of the COVID-19 disruptions to the 2020 bar exam nationwide. ”  (You may remember that ABA Standard 316 requires that “at least 75 percent of a law school’s graduates in a calendar year must have passed the bar exam within two years of their date of graduation.”)

Today, the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA)  joined SALT in urging the ABA Council on Legal Education to suspend 316 as the

only remedy that makes sense given that we cannot predict the ultimate impact of COVID-19.

CLEA’s letter submitted by Kendall L. Kerew, CLEA President, on behalf of the Board of Directors, and found here, notes how consistent this submission is with past submissions to the Council and with their Board of Directors April 21, 2020 statement on licensing for 2020 law graduates:

CLEA has long expressed concerns about Standard 316’s over-reliance on the high-stakes, timed bar examination and its negative impact on diversity in the legal profession. CLEA also has criticized the exam’s emphasis on test-taking skills and memorization of substantive knowledge over legal analysis, problem-solving, and lawyering skills, which are all essential to legal practice. 

Finally, CLEA, whose mission includes a commitment to “pursue and promote justice and diversity as core values of the legal profession,” writes that 

The ability of law students to prepare for and take the
bar exam, given serious virus-related disruptions, is greatly hindered and varies significantly, depending on location. In fact, growing data underscores that people of color face disproportionate illness and death from COVID-19.

The Council meets tomorrow May 15th to “conduct its accreditation business by video conference and will have a brief open session conference call on Friday, May 15, beginning at 3:30 p.m. CDT, to review and take action on the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure previously circulated for Notice and Comment.” 

Leaning into Uncertainty: Ensuring Quality Legal Education During Coronavirus – A Conference

On behalf of Susan L. Brooks,  Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, Drexel University

“I’m pleased to share information about a Roundtable Conference,  Leaning into Uncertainty: Ensuring Quality Legal Education During CoronavirusThe event, which will be held over two half-days (May 26 and 27) will be heavy on the sharing, lighter on the presentations.  Our sense is that there is much value in conversations, crowdsourcing and connection-building as we deal with similar challenges on different campuses. We think smaller breakout groups are an ideal venue for that.

The conference will feature six topical programs.  For each topic, we will have a 15 minute session with two presenters framing the issues, a 60 minute conversation in break-out groups, and a 15 to 30 minute return to share ideas. Our goal is broad participation, so we’re encouraging each school to send a small number of people to every program.  I hope many of you will attend some or all of the sessions.

***Please note that the session on Experiential Education will take place on Tuesday, May 26th from 4:15-5:45, and will include a wide range of topics related to varying sorts of clinics, externships, pro bono programs, and other experiential opportunities.

Feel free to forward this email to colleagues.  We are asking everyone to register by Wednesday May 20 via this link:

https://secure.touchnet.com/C20688_ustores/web/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCTID=2823&SINGLESTORE=true

The schedule is as follows:

Tuesday May 26, 2020:

  • 12:30 EST –   Opening Plenary
  • 12:45 EST –   Roundtable 1: Beyond Zoom! Moving from Emergency Virtual Classrooms to a Rigorous, Engaging Online Experience
  • 2:30   EST –   Roundtable 2: Designing Curriculum and Programs in a World of Social Distancing: Sections, Schedules and Changing Circumstances
  • 4:15   EST –  Roundtable 3: Maintaining High Quality Experiential Learning Opportunities from a Distance

Wednesday May 27, 2020:

  • 12:30 EST –   Day 2 Plenary
  • 12:45 EST –   Roundtable 4: Sustaining a Sense of Place and Well Being for our Students
  • 2:30   EST –   Roundtable 5: Maintaining Morale and Community Among Faculty and Staff
  • 4:15   EST –   Roundtable 6: Maintaining Strategic Priorities and Institutional Health Through Crisis

I’d like to acknowledge the members of the conference planning committee who assisted us in shaping this event: Barry Currier (ABA Managing Director Emeritus), Ben Cooper (University of Mississippi), Darby Dickerson (UIC- John Marshall and AALS President), Melanie Leslie (Cardozo), Kim Mutcherson (Rutgers University),  Zahr Said (University of Washington), and Emily Scivoletto (UC Davis).

Please feel free to email me with any questions or suggestions at: susan.brooks@drexel.edu. “

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