There has been a recent call for law schools to add bar prep courses to the curriculum in the third year. Greedy Associates noted that it might help fix the problem with the disparity in minority test taker passage rates.
As the blog noted, this "one significant barrier to diversity, divergent pass rates between minority and nonminority test takers, could be addressed with additional attention to the bar exam during school. This would have the side-benefit of making oft-criticized as superfluous third-year actually useful, rather than another year of casebooks and theoretical jurisprudence."
But this may not be a one-size-fits-all solution as "Elie Mystal, at Above the Law, points out that the proposal: while it may be useful for lower-tier schools, which have trouble producing grads that can pass the bar exam, for schools with high pass rates, the idea provides no value at all to those students, other than saving them from paying for a post-grad bar prep course (a minor expense in comparison to law school tuition)."
The law school where I work currently has three courses for bar prep that are offered in the third year -- one that is for credit, one that is free and no credit, and a three-day intensive essay writing workshop. The statistics show that the students who partake in all three of these course offerings fair well on the Michigan bar exam.
It may be a worthwhile effort for law schools to partner with proprietary post-grad bar prep courses to make it a part of the law school curriculum -- especially for student like me who could not afford the cost of a post-grad bar prep course.
The paper is the usual metrics paper on the decrease of print law review subscriptions. Interestingly, in the abstract, the authors question law reviews that "report relatively low paid circulation numbers to the U.S. Postal Service (which appear only in tiny-type government forms buried in the rarely read front- or back-matter of the reporting law review), but then tout higher sales numbers in promotional sections of their websites."
It's a trend that calls for more attention. It makes sense that the overall sales of print law reviews are continuing to diminish, especially since law reviews are increasingly making their content available for free online. But I like the idea of open access for law reviews, and the increase of online content is a good thing. And professors are paid a salary to produce the content in the law review, so it's not much of a revenue loss at about $40 a pop for an annual subscription.
We do need to consider other revenue streams for law reviews, though. If the subscription money dries up, law reviews may need to charge more in royalty fees for access to content on the databases (WEXIS). The problem, there, is that the databases do not leave much room to bargain. I think that in most cases, it's a take-it-or-leave-it scenario. Other law reviews are charging for their online content, but that doesn't comport with open access considerations unless the author is free to upload to other databases like SSRN.
One thing is certain, as HeinOnline continues to digitize law reviews, more and more libraries will forego their print subscriptions in favor of digital access. And libraries, generally, make up the largest group of law review subscribers. Law reviews need to start considering a time in the very near future when print subscriptions are canceled in total.
According to Steve, here are seven things Penn Law Review is doing right:
1. It has an online companion with online-only articles, which are citable and will appear on Westlaw. If your law review doesn’t have such a companion, it needs one. I’m talking to you, American University Law Review (@AmULRev). (Sorry, Miles! I did have the decency to tell you personally.)
2. It recently ditched the pun-based title, “PENNumbras,” in favor of the descriptive “University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online.” I’m talking to you, Connecticut Law Review (@ConnLRev) CONNtemplations. (Sorry, from someone who grew up in the Hartford suburbs.)
3. It has its own Twitter feed (@PennLawReview) separate from the Law School’s Twitter feed. I’m talking to you, Maryland Law Review. (Sorry for biting a hand that fed me.)
4. It regularly uses that Twitter feed. I’m talking to you, Virginia Law Review (@VirginiaLawRev), with a total of 6 tweets. (Sorry to my alma mater, though I point out that Mr. Jefferson would have dominated Twitter had it then existed.)
5. There is a separate tweet, with link, to announce each new print or online article. I’m talking to you, Texas Law Review (@TexasLRev), which tweets a single link to announce each new issue. (Sorry for messing with Texas.) Such a single link incorrectly assumes that online readers are interested that a new issue of a particular law review has arrived. Article-specific tweets are the ones most likely to draw a click and re-tweet, leading to dissemination beyond your alumni base.
6. The tweets fit within the 140-character limit and are not cut-off mid-word or mid-sentence. I’m talking to you, California Law Review (@CalifLRev). (Sorry bec….) Use pithy “click bait” – like, for instance, this post’s hyperbolic title.
7. When it held its recent symposium, “Federal Rules at 75,” it tastefully posted a few pictures or announcements. Hundreds of live tweets can cause a reader to click “Unfollow,”never to return. If you want to do a play-by-play, you can set up a separate Twitter feed for your symposium.
These are all wonderful ideas for law reviews, but it can be hard to get a student organization and the school to come together on burgeoning ideas to keep law review relevant. The law reviews that are doing these things are on the right track, and thank you to Steve Klepper for publicizing the good things.
"When Jerome Offutt graduated from law school in 1937 at the age of 19 he was too young to practice law in his home state of Maryland.
Once a child prodigy, Offutt is still achieving much at an unusual age—he’s 96 and still practicing law.
Tuition was only $200 a year when Offutt began law school at the age of 16. He worked at a Safeway to help pay his way.
Offutt says he worked as an “office boy” in a law office after graduating and began his own law practice at the age of 21. He was elected to Maryland’s House of Delegates at the age of 25 and served for three years. He currently practices law in Frederick County, Md.
Today, Offutt begins his day by lifting weights for 30 minutes and then walking for one or two miles."
At age 30, it might be easy for me to say I want to work forever, but this man is living proof it is possible in this profession. The key is to stay happy and fulfilled, which generally happens the longer you practice.
"Law schools are not the first profession to suffer declining enrollments, and a changing profession. Dental schools experienced a similar decline over 2 decades ago. As a result of a shrinking job market, dental school applications dropped at an alarming rate. Accordingly, some universities decided to close their dental schools. A 1987 article in the New York Times reported:
Georgetown University's 86-year-old dental school has no first-year students this fall. Over the next three years the Washington school will be gradually shut down, unless students and faculty members win a lawsuit to block the move. Georgetown, formerly the nation's largest private dental school, decided to close after a Price Waterhouse study found that the school would have a $3.6 million deficit by 1992. In Atlanta, Emory University's dental school will be graduating its last class of dentists this spring, then converting itself into a postdoctoral and research institution… Many of the 57 other dental schools in the United States have cut back the size of their classes, unable to attract enough qualified applicants. According to the American Association of Dental Schools, applications have dropped by almost two-thirds since 1975. The academic quality of the applicants has declined, too. High Tuition and Debt And dental schools face other problems: Tuition that tops $15,000 a year at some private dental schools discourages many applicants, as does the fact that the average private dental school graduate has educational debts of $51,000."
The blog goes on to explain that these were dental programs at highly ranked institutions, and the institutions closed their dental schools because the schools were not attracting the type of students that the institutions wanted. The schools did not want the dental school students to "dumb down" the rest of the university.
The Law Deans blog is basically saying that the smart kids won't go after a law degree in this economic climate. And the prestigious schools will not want to admit less qualified students just to fill seats. Therefore, the university may just choose to shut down the law school program -- especially if the law school is running a deficit.
"The assumption seems to be that it will most likely be fourth-tier schools that will close, if law schools close. Based on what happened to dental schools in an almost identical atmosphere, I am not sure that assumption is correct."
It's a sad day when the legal profession loses some of the best and brightest. I think that there may be something to this hypothesis, however.
LLB reported on "Raymond Blijd, Project Manager, Online Innovation, Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, [who] admits that designing a legal research interface for the small screen remains a challenge but he predicts the era of desktop-based legal research is coming to a close. His prediction is based on desktop usage studies and consumer purchasing trends for IT equipment. Once document creation moves to the small screen, so will legal research according to Blijd in his Intelligent Solutions Blog post The Death of Legal Research on Desktop."
From Blijd's blog:
"While Health and especially Finance went full throttle in mobile, driven respectively by pure need and speed, other business markets have been slower to adopt. Yet, this anxious stance does not reflect reality: PC shipments will only be 20.6% of the total market of smart connected devices. Tablets are forecast to overtake PC sales entirely this Christmas. By 2017,total traditional PC devices are expected to drop to 13%, while tablets and smartphones will contribute 16.5% and 70.5% respectively to the overall market. Those that cling towards a PC oriented design strategy will face extinction just as the operating system and software needed to run it."
I happened to read this blog post right before I went in for a meeting with our Westlaw rep. So naturally, I had to ask if Westlaw sees a time when mobile will be king. The rep said that mobile will not replace the PC interface anytime in the near future, as the PC interface is still much more sophisticated than the mobile interface, and she said that she doesn't see that changing anytime soon.
I think the answer may be different for different sectors of the legal profession, however. For those lawyers who are running between courthouses with their smartphone as their only means of legal research, they will probably continue to increase their reliance on their mobile devices.
For the legal academic, I think that the PC will be favored for research for years to come. Reading long court cases or law review articles on a small screen is not much fun at all.
But I think that law librarians should be adept at both kinds of interfaces: mobile to teach the future attorneys and PC for their own research, as well as that of their faculty.
According to LLB, Judge Chin used the established fair use factors to make his determination:
Purpose and character of the use (factor one): Google’s use is “highly” transformative in that the word index helps readers, scholars, researchers, and other to find books. Moreover, the manipulation of electronic text can help researchers discover historical trends in how words are used. Google’s for-profit status is of slight concern because of the important educational purpose served by Google Books. Factor one favors Google.
Nature of copyrighted work (factor two): The majority of books scanned are non-fiction. Though fiction deserves greater protection, all scanned books were published and available to the public. In any event, both parties in the case agree that the second factor is not determinative.
Amount and substantiality of the portion used (factor three): Google scans the entire book. Courts have held, however, that copying the entire work can be fair use in some circumstances. Judge Chin notes that the key to Google Books is its ability to offer full-text search. Google tightly controls and limits the display as snippets in response to a search. Factor three weighs slightly against a finding of fair use.
Effect of use upon potential market or value (factor four): The Authors Guild argued that Google Books would act as a market replacement for books. Alternatively, a searcher can use multiple word searches to construct a book out of snippets. Google enhances the book market as each display links to sources where the book can be purchased. As such, it provides a way for authors to get noticed. As for the snippet to books argument, someone would have to have a copy of the book in order to construct a copy from the online display. In any event, this would not be possible as Google has blacklisted some snippets as never displayable. The fourth factor weighs strongly in favor of finding fair use.
Judge Chin went on to say, "[i]t has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books."
I use Google Books a lot to help my law journals. During the cite-checking process, the law journal students often find that a citation is wrong, and it can be all but impossible to find the correct quotation in a book without reading the entire book. Now we no longer have to worry about that. Thank you to Google Books for your transformative use of the world's information. Please continue to do good with it.
LLB & InsideHigherEd are reporting about a study of law school faculty hiring practices that will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Empirical Studies.
"The authors studied hiring practices for the 2007-8 academic year. The pattern of hiring appears that schools from all tiers would rather hire graduates from first tier institutions as faculty than lower ranked schools. In fact, the articles states 'nearly half of the new professors hired by accredited last schools in 2008 graduated from only three law schools, those of Harvard, Stanford and Yale Universities.'"
"The implication InsideHigherEd draws is that these hiring practices belie a movement to teach practical skills in a changing curriculum when new faculty members are drawn from programs that emphasize theory."
That's a good point. Although if the new faculty members graduated from schools that emphasize theory and then went on to legal careers for the hands-on training, it's not really much of a problem. It is a little jarring that this level of elitism still persists given that we have over 200 ABA accredited law schools in this country and nearly half of new hires only come from the three schools.
An ABA Journal article reported on survey results of new partners and noted that "[a] greater percentage of female lawyers had a longer path to partnership than their male counterparts. The American Lawyer survey found that about 80 percent of the male lawyers surveyed made partner within a decade, compared to 66 percent of the women."
Other survey findings:
• Only 78 percent of new female partners said they felt adequately prepared for the job, compared to 90 percent of men.
• Only 83 percent of new female partners said they had been asked to lead a team on a matter, compared to 93 percent of men.
• Thirty percent of new female partners who weren't satisfied with some aspect of partnership cited gender bias as a reason. Twenty-eight percent cited cronyism.
We've come a long way in terms of gender equality in the law, but study after study shows that there is still gender bias in our largest firms. "In the U.S. only 15% of partners in law firms are women, and they earn less than their male counterparts."
Here is an interesting video from the NYTimes discussing the expectations of young female attorneys and their views 12 years later. Many of the findings in the survey seem to correspond with the real-life expectations and results of female attorneys hired into BigLaw.
"Talk of digital revolutions and bookless libraries notwithstanding, academic libraries around the country are feeling the squeeze as legacy collections outgrow shelves, and shelves give way to learning commons and shared study areas. Those twin pressure points—too many print books plus new demands on library real estate—have spurred academic libraries to try a set of state and regional experiments to free up library space to suit modern learning styles and still make sure that somebody, somewhere, hangs onto books that make up part of the intellectual record, even if those books haven't circulated in years."
But how do libraries decide which books to deselect? According to the author of the CHE article, "they should draw on solid data—on persuasive and detailed analyses of what's in a collection and how it's used and whether those books are available somewhere else." Some libraries have "settled on three criteria: titles that were published or acquired before 2005, that appeared in at least three collections, and that had circulated three or fewer times since 1999."
It's been a slow movement toward digitization and de-duplicating, but "[m]ass-digitization projects, notably the creation of the HathiTrust digital repository with its nearly 11 million volumes, have also encouraged libraries to act. If electronic copies of monographs exist, that takes some pressure off libraries to have print copies of them close by. (About 3.5 million of the digitized works in the HathiTrust are in the public domain, according to the repository)."
Nearly every academic library is facing space and money constraints, and regional consortiums are a great idea. But it can be a challenge to consider another library when building or weeding a collection. There has to be a strong foundation of trust. There can also be issues of access to resources. If only one or two copies of a print monograph are saved for archival purposes, the libraries that house the monograph may not be willing to lend it through interlibrary loan or other because there is a risk that if a patron or library loses the book, it will be lost forever.
As libraries continue to change and evolve, I suspect that we will see many more consortiums pop up. Our job as librarians is to work out the kinks to archive our intellectual record.
An ABA Journal article proposed a program to let 3Ls earn credit while getting paid for their externships and not paying the law school tuition. This sounds like a pretty sound idea. Currently, under the ABA Standards, law students cannot be financially compensated for earning credits. The thinking being that the law school credit is compensation for the work performed. However, most law schools require their law students to pay tuition for the credits, so the students are paying to essentially work for free. This might be okay in better economic times if the students are receiving a true academic experience while on the job. But it's hard to determine the quality of the on-the-job training that many law students receive at their externships. If they are not getting a quality education during their externships but must still pay tuition, then it becomes that the students are paying thousands of dollars to work for free. An executive at Cisco, Mark Chandler, proposed the following reform: 1. Third-year law students who want practical experience should be able to receive academic credit for working—for pay—in a law firm, company legal department or court. The difference from today’s externships, for which full credit is granted, is simply receipt of compensation, which requires a change in the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools Interpretation 305-3 (PDF). One can suppose that the proscription on compensation for externs is based on the premise that employers will be willing to provide a more academically based experience if the work is performed without compensation. But there’s no empirical basis to support that, and the standards require extensive oversight of externships in any case. Unlike today’s externships, the law students would also not pay tuition to the law school, thereby cutting their costs by one-third. 2. Law schools must provide externs with academic support, going beyond the ABA oversight rules, to ensure real legal work is being performed, and supplementary required readings to provide context. This work could also give rise to academic credit. An effective program could provide the necessary checks that the work is genuine practical experience, on the order of the clinics that many schools run today. 3. The employer should also be allowed to cover the tuition the school would otherwise receive. The ABA rule change must accommodate the ability of the employer to make this payment so that law schools can continue their faculty work and research programs. Cisco is even implementing a version of these suggestions while still fitting within the current ABA Standards. According to Chandler, "[Cisco's] hope is the students emerge with a semester’s less debt and some savings from the internship salary. More importantly, they should have gained practical skills and experience that will serve them well regardless of the law practice after they graduate. And the law school will not suffer a degradation of resources to continue academic programs, support faculty research and meet other needs.
Again, this sounds like a win-win situation for everyone involved.
The ABAJournal reported on a new model of associate training that some big name law firms are testing.
"One option being tried by Greenberg Traurig is a new residency program for associates who aren’t recruited in traditional on-campus interviews. The positions last for a year and pay less, but new lawyers in the program can spend up to a third of their billable hours in training. At the end of the trial period, the residency associates may have to leave the firm, may become a regular associate, or may become a 'practice group attorney,' a new position for nonshareholder lawyers."
"Another firm, Duval & Stachenfeld, began its “Opportunity Associate Program” 11 years ago. Associates in this program are paid $70,000 during a nine-month probationary period. If they do well, they become either a 'principal associate' on the partnership track or they join the 'alternative track program.'"
This just might be the way to go. As the old model of learning theory in law school and getting hands-on mentoring at a law firm fades, these residency programs could make up the difference in learning. As law schools continue to provide more practical training and increasingly require a clinical requirement to graduate, law students are starting to graduate with the necessary skills that law firms have criticized were previously lacking. This type of residency program at law firms will help to build upon the skills that are taught in law school and provide the necessary training to practice law. This means that new and recent graduates will be more practice ready than ever.
The residency programs would also alleviate the issue with unpaid interns. Many firms hire unpaid interns, but I suspect that many of these interns do not get the requisite training that is required of an unpaid position. With these training programs, the residency associate would get paid a decent salary, get substantial training, and "law firms could [even] 'sweeten the deal' with loan repayment assistance."
It was refreshing to see GRADHACKER recently list a librarian as the top resource of the 5 campus resources every graduate student should use. As a bonus resource, GRADHACKER also listed the local library as another great resource.
From the blog:
One of the best pieces of advice I received as a student was "Take your librarian out to coffee at least once a semester." Universities hire full-time librarians assigned to the major subject areas. These librarians are particularly knowledgeable of rare documents, collections, and uncatalogued resources waiting to be processed. Additionally they have the ability to order books, journals, maps, data, and other resources graduate students may need.
2. Writing Center 3. Gym 4. Professional Services: Tax, Legal, and Dental Services 5. Student Government and Graduate Student Union
Bonus: Your Local Library
Although not situated on campus, your local library is another important resource that many of us fail to use. While the university has most of the books I need, the local county library offers digital subscriptions to popular monthly magazines that can be downloaded on a computer or tablet. It's great to take advantage of the 'free' resources that come with being a member of a large institution or the community -- especially as a graduate student who may be short on funds. Maybe I am a bit bias, but I, too, think that a librarian is a great resource that many students fail to fully utilize. On some levels, it wasn't until I became a librarian that I realized how valuable we can be. That might go back to one of the criticisms of the profession as a whole. Librarians are often criticized for not fully promoting their value and what exactly it is that they do.
Students -- come and see us, and we'll show you what we can do. Especially if you are doing specialized research or delving into scholarship.
Dean I. Richard Gershon (formerly of Charleston School of Law, currently of the University of Mississippi School of Law) noted that some law schools are resorting to laying off faculty and staff in an effort to control budgets. The gist of his post is that the focus should not be on the faculty and staff but rather the law library (this is part I of a multi-part series on evolving law schools).
According to Gershon, "the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools require that libraries have adequate space and resources," and the standards create a "collection plan [that adds] greatly to the annual expenses of many law school budgets, without truly enhancing the education of the students, or the scholarly productivity of the faculty. In plain terms, [according to Gershon] we buy or subscribe to a whole bunch of stuff that we will never use." Gershon goes on to further state, "when we purchase print materials, we have to find a place to shelve those materials. The result is that we have established beautiful book museums, when our students and faculty rarely use those materials, and the legal profession moved away from print a decade ago."
There are many reasons beyond the ABA standards that law libraries collect the way that they do. There are ownership considerations whereby many electronic resources only allow licensing rather than content ownership, which means that the content availability is tenuous. Also, the legal publishing field has not kept pace with the supposed abandonment of print resources. As stated previously, of the 2 million unique volumes in law libraries, only 15% of those materials have been digitized for electronic use. This leaves 85% only available in print. That is a lot of valuable content to abandon.
There are also different considerations for standalone law schools. Without the support of a large undergraduate research library, standalone law schools are left to acquire the materials for their curriculum all alone. As one law librarian commented, "libraries’ collection development policies are based primarily on curricular emphases and support for faculty members' current research needs."
I visited the Charleston School of Law library once, and I was amazed by its small size. There was a very small core collection with a large emphasis on the legal databases. Maybe the students at Charleston would use the materials if they had access to them. I even had a student-friend from CSL who would call me for access to other resources to write a scholarly article. And if you follow in Charleston's footsteps, you're leaving it up to the legal databases to decide what content will be available and when.
As lawyers, we are taught to be a prudent bunch. To merely decide that we should not collect print resources because no one uses them is not the answer. Instead, we need to find a way to inspire students and faculty to use the resources. Law librarians need to instruct and promote our resources and the overall value of the library.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported on the continued decrease in the number of LSAT test takers. "The number of law school admission tests administered in October is down nearly 11% from the previous year, according to new data from the Law School Admission Council."
"It’s the fewest number of October test takers since 1998 and the second-lowest figure going back to the 1980s."
"The number of test takers peaked four years ago and has been on the decline ever since. The total for June and October is down 38% from four years ago. And the October total alone is 45% below the 2009 peak."
So we've seen these numbers before in the late 1980's. The problem is that there has also been a substantial number of law schools opened since that time. The figure reads that 65 new law schools have opened since 1970. I'd say the number is closer to 30 law schools since 1987.
So the ultimate challenge will be to spread the lower number of applicants across more law schools. Things will also depend on how the law schools have operated in a time of drastic growth as compared to the fast, sweeping decline that has occurred. If the schools remained financially strong and efficient during peak times, they should be able to weather this storm -- hopefully with innovative reform.