The Geek In Review – Episode 18 is ready just in time for your Thanksgiving travel enjoyment. Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes or Google (or where ever you listen to your podcasts) so that you automatically get the latest episodes. Comments can be sent to @glambert or @gebauerm. Also, if you like our new theme music, check out Jerry David DeCicca’s new album on Spotify, or iTunes,

Nicholas Alexiou, Director of LL.M and Alumni Advising at Vanderbilt University Law School joins us for an in-depth discussion of what law schools are teaching students in the three years they have them. In an environment where students only care about things which are on the final, or on the bar exam, should professional development programs be required or affect GPA’s? While 1Ls and 2Ls get lots of attention from the professional development course, 3Ls are left to their own devices. Greg thinks there is room for improvement with 3Ls professional development from the law schools, law firms, and vendors.

Apple Podcasts LogoApple PodcastsOvercast LogoOvercastSpotify LogoSpotify

Marlene points out an MIT answer to “What is AI?” Sometimes a complicated concept can be explained on a napkin with a flowchart. This explanation is so simple, even Marlene’s Mom can understand it. Now, if MIT would come up with a flowchart to explain to Greg’s Mom what it is he actually does with a law degree and a masters degree in Library Science.  Continue Reading E18 – Nicholas Alexiou – Professional Development Needs for Law Students

Marlene (@gebauerm) and Greg (@glambert) talk with the University of Oklahoma School of Law’s Director of Technology Innovation, Kenton Brice. Kenton discusses how OU is leveraging the advances in technology to expand upon the university’s commitment to not only teach students how to think like a lawyer, but to also have a grasp of some of the skills needed to practice law efficiently.

Continue Reading Podcast Episode 9 – Getting Law Students Familiar with Legal Tech

While some law schools in the US
are closing
, in Canada, a prospective new one received
preliminary approval in late December 2017  by The Federation of Law Societies of Canada, Canadian Common Law
Program Approval Committee on its application to create a new law school.  This is the
next step in the school’s bid to establish a law school. What is interesting
and unique about this school, is that they are not exclusively focused on the
letter of the law nor traditional legal studies as with other law schools. Instead
they are taking a more progressive applied, approach to the discipline as has become a hallmark
of the Ryerson University brand.  

In describing its program,
Ryerson proposes to create a “different kind of law school that trains lawyers differently”. It
emphasizes a program that has an “innovation-focused approach”that will equip graduates with
real-world skills and competencies required to meet the present and future needs of consumers of
legal services.

The courses that students will be
required (my emphasis not theirs) to take include:

  • The Business of
    Lawyering
  • Legal Innovation
  • Social
    Innovation and the Law
  • Access to
    Justice Solutions

The courses will be taught by
professors of course, but also include an element of practical experience and
working with mentors from within the program itself. Courses are described in the application as:

“the course-based component is
divided between a morning session in traditional lecture format, and an afternoon session
where students will be separated into seven-member “student law firms” where they will engage
in practice-based assignments. The afternoon sessions will be overseen by mentors.”

Also contemplated are three one
week workshops in each of the three years of law school, I’ve pulled the descriptions here from the application documents:

  • Ryerson Law
    School Bootcamp:
    focuses
    on career planning, networking, mentoring, leadership
    and personal development [Mandatory 1L]
  • Technology
    Innovation Bootcamp:
    focuses
    on the current edge of legal technology,including
    data analytics, artificial intelligence, and quantitative legal prediction,
    etc. [Mandatory 2L
  • Financial
    Bootcamp:
    focuses
    on accounting, taxation and financial analysis [Optional 3L]
  • Coding Bootcamp:
    introduces
    students to HTML, cascading style sheet computing and Python, while requiring them to
    apply data analytics to devise a solution to a specific legal problem. [Optional 3L]
  • Emotional
    Quotient/Cultural Quotient (EQ/CQ) Bootcamp:
    includes an implementation project that aligns with recent
    shifts in thinking about the core competencies required of licensees in Ontario. [Optional
    3L]
The school’s proposed curriculum is
exciting and refreshing while also scary. It points to a very deliberate shift
in what practising law can and should be about in the future – a future that can start with mandatory shifts in education in the next couple of years if not sooner. We have certainly been
talking about this impending “future of the legal profession” for long enough. 

Last week on 3 Geeks, Greg
blogged about the importance of Professional
Development
for library and research staff, in firms. I think learning
some of the non-legal skills Ryerson wants to introduce in law school, can and
should be sought out by lawyers, not just admin staff in firms.   Lawyers
and not just the student kind, need to be thinking about the business of law
and the practice of law right from school and otherwise.  Lawyers and law students, along with law firm administrators need to
attend the very conferences Greg suggests are important to learn about everything
law school doesn’t teach or is just beginning to teach as mandatory. 

While legal industry commentators are making predictions this month on the state of the legal industry in
2018, I would like to do something different, and make a wish for the industry
instead.   I wish that 2018 be the year
of the business-of-law tipping point. I wish for the coming year to be the one
where we finally “get it” , where clients push firms of all sizes to act like
businesses, where lawyers of all practices, years of call and diverse of
backgrounds begin the slow but necessary step of getting trained on new ways of
thinking about practising law with a robust business acumen either from formal
education, continuing education/professional development or industry conferences.  I wish that
Ryerson’s law school (if it gets final approval), and other similar mandatory and elective
courses at all law schools is just the beginning of what’s to come for
the future of the profession and that 2018 ushers in a new wave of legal professionals who have the skills and abilities to integrate legal know-how with
business, technology, and access to justice  – with a smile. 

Best wishes for a successful 2018!
Image [cc] Ana C.

It seems that Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. is not a fan of law reviews. Back in 2011, Roberts joked that he found law reviews irrelevant, and found no need to know why there was any influence on 18th century Bulgaria by philosopher Immanuel Kant. In fact he went further and said “I would have to think very hard” in order to recall any recent law review articles he read, or found useful.

Ouch.

Let’s admit it, most of us outside the ivy covered walls of Academia rarely rush to the library to grab the latest law review before our peers in order to have a competitive advantage. To be fair, however, law reviews are kind of like archives. Most of the time, you never need anything from the archives, but when that need arises, you sure are glad it is there. Whether law reviews are relevant, or useful, or readable is beside the point here. What is interesting is that Roberts’ comment was actually about a real law review article, written by George Washington University Law Professor Orin Kerr. And, as any good writer will attest, always take advantage of the opportunity to turn one piece of writing into two pieces of writing.

Kerr is publishing an answer to Roberts’ comments in an upcoming law review article in The Green Bag. I’m actually looking forward to reading that one from this unconventional law review. One side note for The Green Bag…  please update that awful looking website. Just because your law review was created in 1997, doesn’t mean your website needs to look like it was created that same year.

Sorry. Got off topic.

Kerr got the idea of writing the response to Roberts when he was named a scholar-in-residence at the Law Library of Congress in 2012. In an interview to the National Law Journal (h/t to Rich Leiter), Kerr mentioned that the staff at the Library of Congress was amazing, stating that “They can find anything.” That without the help of the Library research staff, specifically Peter Roudik, the article couldn’t have been written. Then came the quote that I’m printing out, framing, and hanging on my office wall:

“The lesson of the article is that you can do anything with an amazing research librarian.”

As happy as I am to see this quote, I have to really as Orin Kerr one thing, “you’re just now figuring that out??” I bet there are some folks back at George Washington that would love to introduce you to the research librarians at the law library. Helping you find the obscure text from 1859 is something that many of us do on a regular basis. In addition, we can probably get it to you overnight (or within hours), without costing you a fortune. Law Librarians, and Researchers have connections, and those connections have connections. I hope for Kerr’s sake that he’s located the law library researchers back at GW when he got back from the Library of Congress.

So let this be a lesson to all of the Professors out there writing the next great Law Review Article. Go find the law library and introduce yourself to the research staff. Tell them what you’re working on, and make them a part of the team. They probably won’t be able to make your article any more appealing to Chief Justice Roberts, but they will definitely help you thoroughly research the topic.

Norse Elephant
Image [cc] kaiban

President Obama made an off-the-cuff remark last week when he was quoted in The Washington Post, “that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years.” Apparently he knew this would cause some controversy, but he took solace in the fact that he doesn’t have to run for a third term and can make controversal statements like this.

Now, remember that the President is on his “College Affordability Bus Tour” so the topic is focused on the overal cost of school, not the actual numbers of lawyers that our 200+ law schools are pumping out into the industry these days. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun/conversation on the comment and what the overall outcome would be of removing the 3L class out of law schools and just releasing fresh faced 2L’s out into the world.

Therefore, this week’s Elephant Post question is simply:

What Could Possibly Go Wrong With Reducing Law School To A Two-Year Program?

Here are the rules for answering the EP:

  • Fill out the form below, or email me (xlambert at gmail dot com) with your answer
  • You can give us your real name or stay anonymous
  • I’ll put out the answers on Friday
  • See what others have answered

Loading…

Dan and Emily
Image [cc] Sharyn Morrow

Jane: Dan, I’ve been going over some of the statistics from the Simkovic/McIntyre study, and have to say that most law students will be far better off by attending law school than they would by not obtaining the degree.

Dan: Jane, I see you’ve been playing music with your old college band, The Intelligentsia, and found that bag of weed your old boyfriend stashed in his guitar. A student would You’d be better off heading to Las Vegas and putting the $150K on Black. Wait a minute, isn’t your old boyfriend a Law School Professor now?

Jane: Well… yes, but he doesn’t play guitar any longer.

Dan: Jane, maybe he should take it back up, as it looks like his day job might be on shaky ground. However, it is nice of you to attempt to help him maintain his cushy lifestyle at the expense of some kid paying off student loans for the next 35 years.

Jane: Dan, as usual, you do not see past the bottom of your vodka tonic glass you have stashed under your desk. An advanced education opens up many opportunities for graduates that simply are not there for those without the advanced degree. The study shows that most students will be hundreds of thousands of dollars ahead over the lifespan of their careers. A little investment now will pay off over time.

Dan: Jane, I actually agree with you…

Jane: gasp…

Dan: Slow your roll there babe, I agree with you – to a point. And that point is when the advanced degree is a law degree. We pump out far too many lawyers as it is. The fact that we have 200 law schools in this country, most of them a far cry from the top tier schools, shows that we are throwing far too many students at a career that is shrinking every year. If they want an advanced degree, pick something useful like Computer Science or Engineering. The only thing that would help the legal profession would be if a third of law schools shut their doors today.

Jane: Dan, the study shows that law school graduates get a salary bump, on average, of $32,000 – $53,000 a year. Statistics alone would encourage a student with a History degree to think seriously about obtaining a law degree.

Dan: Okay Jane. Let me ask you this: Would you encourage your nephew to go to law school?

Jane: Yes.

Dan: Okay. In your typical, “nothing could every possibly go wrong mentality”, would you encourage him to do so on student loans?

Jane: Under the right circumstances, yes.

Dan: My guess is that the right cirumstances equates to “he qualified for any student loans.” Would you be so quick if you knew that he probably wouldn’t get into a top tier school, and he wouldn’t graduate in the top 10% of his class?

Jane: Well, I would encourage him to work hard and study to get in that top 10%.

Dan: Jane, you’re pretty big on statistics when it comes to the study, but you seem to be pretty ignorant of math when it comes to the reality that most students will rack up the same, or more, debt as those that finish in the top 10% of top tier schools. Add to that, the fact that most kids like your nephew would end up graduating from third and fourth tier schools, and would be lucky to land a job requiring a law degree and bar passage. More likely, your nephew would land on your doorstep looking for a place to live because your Sister told him to go live with the stupid Aunt that talked him into going to law school.

Jane: Dan, my nephew is smart, capable, and he will make it.

Dan: Well, he better hope so. Your career as a journalist probably won’t last until he graduates law school. Better hope that your next job at Amazon or with the Red Sox comes with some benefits.

Image [cc] Salem State Library

Maybe I’m reading a bit much into this announcement from the Dorraine Zief Law Library at the University of San Francisco, but, the fact that Westlaw has decided to allow graduating law students access to their law school Westlaw IDs through the end of November seems to be a sign that even the folks up in Eagan, MN know it’s a tough market for law grads.

Graduates that go to extend their passwords by May 30th can have access to Westlaw classic and WestlawNext through their student logon. According to the USF post:

Graduates who extend their password will receive access to WestlawNext and Westlaw Classic through November 2013 instead of just through July.  The exact number of monthly access hours is not available, but is at least 40 hours per month.

Graduating students who have already extended their access don’t have to do anything further to get the extension through November.  There’s a link to the extension site in an  e-mail sent to graduating students.  Students may also click the “Need Westlaw this Summer?” ad on lawschool.westlaw.com.

I’m glad that Thomson Reuters decided to allow grads to keep access to this very expensive resource to help keep their research skills fresh as they are hunting for work. Of course, I’m wonder who will be the first grad to put on his or her resume that “if you hire me, I’ll have 40 hours of free Westlaw searching I can bring with me”?? Please, don’t be that person!!
 
Image [cc] Indiaedu.com

There are a couple of trends that I’ve seen when talking with other law librarians about e-books. First, legal publishing vendors don’t seem to have a plan on what to do about e-books. Second, law librarians don’t seem to know what to do about e-books, either. My suggestions to the law librarian community has been to start figuring it out, quickly, or we are going to be stuck with whatever the vendors eventually come up with. Of course, even that could still be years away.

It seems that no one want to be the first to jump into the fray and define exactly how we want to organize, sell and collect e-book collections. Add to this the fact that there is very little demand by our attorneys to have e-books readily available in the law firm’s collection. To modify what my good friend Toby says, “find out what’s keeping your attorneys up at night… and it isn’t e-books.” That’s good news for the law librarian world, but it is a temporary stay at most. Eventually, new lawyers, and lawyers that get more familiar with their mobile and tablet devices will figure out the advantages of having an e-book library at the ready. However, if law librarians wait that long to prepare, then we fall into reactionary mode. If we start now, we can be better prepared for that tipping point.

So, back to the title of this post. The vendors could actually start the ball rolling on this demand piece of the e-book equation. Just like with online research, get the students hooked on the idea early, and then they will drive demand when they make it to the firms. I’ve ranted before that in the age of the iPad, why in the world should a 1L lug around a 50 lbs. backpack full of books? It makes very little sense, and it shows the lack of forward thinking by the legal publishers. My suggestion to the legal publishers is that you should look at the law book industry as your gateway to the e-book collection of the future. Work out the arrangements with the law schools so that they benefit by moving away from traditional print course books to an e-book model.

I’m sure there are a thousand reasons that the legal publisher could think of on why this wouldn’t work. However, that is hanging on to a dying publication model. The longer the traditional legal publisher waits to jump in this new model, the more likely a young, fresh, start-up will jump in there and fill the void. If that happens, then the cost of entry into that market skyrockets for the traditional legal textbook publishers (and, they’ll eventually acquire the startups at a premium price.)

The over-simplistic idea here is this: Placing e-books in law students’ hands now will result in selling e-book collections to these lawyers (and their firms) later. It’s coming, so either get in front and drive it, or stand back and wait for the chaos of customers telling you what to do.

Now, back to the law librarians. E-books are coming, make no mistake about it. I’ve laid out one possible scenario, but there are many others that you can imagine. Now, get in front of this shift in customer demand, or sit back and wait for the chaos of the lawyers and the vendors telling you what to do.

1L’s are getting younger and younger.
Actually, these are my daughters
on their way to the first day
of school today!

I had a very pleasant conversation with a fresh-faced first year law student this morning as we waited for a bus that finally showed up 20 minutes late. Being 18 years removed from my 1L experience, it was interesting to listen to the excitement in her voice as she talked about the very familiar topics of orientation, picking up books at the bookstore, how nice the law librarians were at the school, how nervous she was getting called on to brief a case the first day of class, trying to interpret old English cases on contracts, and having 3Ls scaring the bejesus out of you. It suddenly hit me about five minutes into our conversation, that we could have been having this very same conversation when I was a 1L in 1994. 

Now, granted, this is a sample of one student, but she can’t be too much outside of the norm of most students these days. First of all, the backpack she was carrying was about the same size she was. It’s 2012… sure, we don’t have those flying cars like Back to the Future promised us, but why in the world are law students still lugging around 30 lbs of books to class? The publishers of casebooks should be ashamed of themselves that they have not worked out the details with law schools to do away with physical casebooks. 
I know that there is a technique to training law students to “think like lawyers,” but you’d think that by now the professors would be somewhat tired of teaching the Socratic Method. Sure, it’s what they know… but it’s like a rock band playing the same set of songs, year after year. You know they just have to be bored out of their minds. Could any law professor that teaches first year contracts law really get excited after they’ve taught 10-20 years of the same method?? I guess they are law professors… maybe they do.

The one thing that did stand out in the conversation was her answer when I asked if 1Ls were nervous about entering law school during a time when everyone in the world is saying “DON’T GO TO LAW SCHOOL.” What surprised me was the fact that she didn’t even blink when she talked about how genuinely excited she was to go to law school and how optimistic she was on her chances of entering the profession of practicing law… all this despite the fact that no one in her family was a lawyer. Now, maybe she was blissfully ignorant of the market, or she just felt that she was going to beat the odds. Here’s hoping to the latter!

Image [cc] estudioquimbya

Last weeks’s post from Toby on “The First Time I Saw a Computer Practice Law” jogged my mind of my recent trip to Georgetown Law School and talking to Roger Skalbeck about assigning his class called “Technology, Innovation and Law Practice.” The major assignment for the class was to create an application that could be used in the practice of law. At the end of the course, there was a competition called “The Iron Tech Lawyer” where the students displayed their creations to a panel of judges and explained how the technology worked to assist (or replace) the lawyer in making practical decisions in the practice of law.

I’ve embedded the video of the Nightly Business Report’s coverage of the competition, and as you watch it, you might notice a couple of the same things that I did:

  1. The technology is available now to replace some of the functions that we have thought only lawyers could do properly.
  2. Watch the excitement on the faces of the students. They are not thinking of technology of killing off the practice of law, but rather enhancing it and making it available to the masses.
  3. The law professor did notice that the technology may lead to a reduction in overall work for lawyers, but that the trade off is that lawyers can make up for this by servicing the legal needs of those that might not have been able to get access before.
Whenever someone talks about tech replacing lawyers, the initial reaction of the establishment, especially bar associations, is to circle the wagons and fight against it. Watching how a few law students could come up with practical applications for the practice of law for a classroom project should put everyone on notice that this is the wave of the future, and fight it though you might, it will eventually become a reality. Better to start facing it now and begin understanding ways of using it to supplement the practice of law, or one day the wave of new technology will simply drown those that think they can fight to keep it from changing the way they practice law.