November 06, 2008

Law Firm Training Programs and Other Fractured Fairy Tales

In Jim Hassett's Legal Business Development Blog we learn something rather astonishing (not) about the real agenda of law schools and law firms.

This month’s meeting of the Boston Legal Business Development Roundtable (Choate, Goodwin Procter, Goulston, Holland & Knight, K&L Gates, Nixon Peabody, and Nutter, McClennen & Fish ) was the first time we invited an outside speaker.   Seven senior business development professionals from Boston’s largest firms talked with Dr. David Nersessian about his work as Executive Director of the Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession, and discussed recent trends as viewed from the academy and from the trenches.

The reason I bring it to your attention is to help dispell the myth when you get a job at a Big Law firm right out of law school it will help you when you decide to leave to open your own successful solo practice.  This blurb is Jim's synopsis of the discussion and an anonymous quote from an attendee:

Law firms have wildly different ideas about how associates should be involved in developing new business, or even whether they should.  At one extreme, some firms see business development as the single most critical skill in any associate’s long term success.  At the other extreme, some firms honestly don’t want associates to think about business development, or anything else that distracts them from generating more revenue.  If an associate is billing 2400 hours, and encouraged to bill more, when exactly is she supposed to be developing new business?

For firms that do want associates developing business, law schools provide poor preparation.  In fact, some at our meeting said law schools don’t prepare associates to do many of the things that matter in their careers.  As one participant put it: “The irony of even a top tier legal education is how little it teaches about real world business issues, or core sales and marketing tools such as networking, asking probing questions that uncover pain, pipeline development, or building a brand--all skills that are arguably important to succeeding in a leading law firm in today's world."

If your ambition is to open your own solo practice, do not rely upon your law school or your first job at Big Law to provide the practical education you require in order to achieve your goals. If you know you want to go solo upon passing the bar or shortly thereafter, your 'education' needs to be through your own efforts while in law school, or within your current job and/or utilizing resources which cater to the unique challenges you will face as both a professional and a business owner.

This fanciful delusion of the benevolent mentor/employer who will teach you the ins and outs of both the practice of law and the business of running a law practice is distracting and costly for the serious entrepreneur.  Some lawyers never fully recover from their disillusionment.

(H/T to Edward Wiest)

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

October 24, 2008

Are You An Ape Climbing A Ladder To Get A Banana?

Jordan Furlong, my favorite 'editor' on the internet because he is just so progressive and right about so many things in the legal profession, wrote a great post called 'Dispelling the Myths of Lawyer Education".  Relating this true story (or parable) is appropriate when describing what most new law grads experience when they tell others they want to go solo:

https://img.thesun.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00400/snn0739b682_400816a.jpgThere’s an old story about a supposed experiment in which five apes are placed in a cage containing a stepladder. A banana is hanging from the roof of the cage, and a sprinkler with ice-cold water is positioned above it. Whenever an ape tries to climb the ladder to get the banana, the sprinkler comes on and drenches all the apes until the ambitious ape abandons the effort. Eventually, after numerous attempts and soakings, the apes learn to avoid the ladder altogether. Then the sprinkler is turned off completely.

Now one of the apes is replaced with a new ape, who, not surprisingly, heads straight for the stepladder to get the banana. The other apes set upon him immediately, beating and shoving him until he gives up — even though the water never comes on. Then another replacement ape arrives, and when he tries to get the banana, the other apes attack him — including the previous new ape who has never been soaked! Eventually, five new apes who’ve never been showered with ice water will nonetheless avoid the stepladder and the banana. And that, the story goes, is where policy comes from — that’s the way we’ve always done it around here.

The post further discusses why law schools are doggedly adhering to a flawed measurement system which doesn't get the results it should simply because 'this is the way we've always done it' regardless of strong empirical evidence that says the way they are doing it is not predictive of success.  In fact, it's just flat out wrong.

So here’s what we have: evidence, often compelling, that:

  1. LSAT scores don’t tell you much about whether someone will be a good law student,
  2. Publishing credentials don’t tell you anything about whether someone will be a good law professor, and
  3. Law school marks don’t tell you anything about whether someone will be a good lawyer.

And...The strongest predictor of success was between Lawyering Skills grade and class rank (0.57).

And yet LSAT scores, law professor credentials and law school marks remain the three most significant criteria employed within the lawyer training system. Apes in a cage.

Please read the full article here which also includes links to the studies referenced.

It's also a compelling argument, in my opinion, not to stress out over getting into the highest ranked law school.  More important to get into the law school which is best for your personal situation.

However, for this post I'm going to extrapolate this data for the solo practitioner.

Are you an ape chasing a banana?  How many people are telling you it is nearly impossible to hang a shingle right out of law school?  Are they beating you up over it even though 'the sprinkler is off' meaning conditions have changed or better yet, their experience and or simply their fears based upon another's experience do not have to be yours!  Yet people are harping on the old ways and not getting the banana because someone else told them the banana cannot be had without getting wet?

if you want to be a solo practitioner, don't pay attention to the other legal apes. And if you missed the highlighted portion of the article.....did you see the strongest predictor of success was in no small part Lawyering Skills obtained in law school.

If you are a law student and have ambitions to go solo, climb the ladder even if others tell you you'll get wet. Take as many practical skills classes as you can.  Chart your course with classes that provide every day knowledge, clinics, externships, internships, summer positions paid or unpaid with practicing attorneys where you can actually observe and learn in the trenches.  This is what will help you have options once you get out. 

Um. I think I'm in the mood for a banana :-)

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter

June 09, 2008

Can You Really Afford To Bash The 'Millennial' Lawyer?

(This is a little long but worthwhile :-)

There has been much discussion recently about the Millennial in the workforce and particularly in law firms.  I need to weigh in because I feel differently then those in the legal community who have been quite vocal about their disdain for what is being called the 'Slackeoisie.'  While I immensely respect the writers of What About Clients? and the prolific Scott Greenfield, I view this generation differently then they do.  (And as 60 minutes portrays here.)

Maybe it's because, even though I'm two generations removed from a millennial, I understand some of what they feel. I don't believe the mindset of the Millennial is a new one. I think in large part they just harbor more entrepreneurial drive then previous generations....and I get entrepreneurial.  They are not willing to put off starting their dreams. They are certainly less inclined to sacrifice unless their career goal is attainable within a relatively reasonable period of time. They don't see their world segmented - work life in one corner and personal life in the other.  They just see 'life.' And there is a stronger belief in one's self but it has been nurtured on a fast food mentality.  They are simply in the fast lane 24/7.  It's saying 'no' to the old model.  And it is by saying 'no' some interpret them as arrogant, disrespectful and dismissive of those who did work within the old model to get where they are today.  I believe this is what irks those who have trudged the traditional path....barefoot through 10 feet of snow...to school...without a winter coat.  We can't be mad at an entire generation because they don't want to play by the rules most of us felt we had to abide by.

Of course, there is much more (positive and negative about this generation) that can be (in)appropriately broad-brushed.  Yet, as in any generation there are those who are driven to achieve who have a strong work ethic and those who are slackers.  But for some reason, this generation is really getting slammed.  I believe it is unfair.

What role has corporate America (you and me) played in this?  Let's see.  These kids grew up:

  • watching their parents slave away at jobs only to be laid off over and over, again,
  • lose their pensions and health benefits to criminals like Enron;
  • watching corporate America outsource their jobs overseas;
  • seeing a corporate culture change from one where employees were valued and shown appreciation to a culture of poor treatment and being told they should be grateful to have any job;
  • being told if they didn't like 'any job' there's ten more people who look just like them lining up to take their place. 

The days of feeling proud for having given all your working life to one company and getting the gold watch and retirement dinner have disappeared. Today's young worker sees working for another based upon the old model as indentured servitude with no realistic brass ring and they want no part of it.  This is especially true after being told over and over again that their generation will be the first generation to not do as well as their parents.  Now there's an exciting future to consider as they carry $100,000 + in student loans. 

So, if they want to do an end run around the old model because they think it's broken can we really fault them?  If they want to look up at the sky and see endless possibilities of their own creation rather than the big round butt of a manager who blocks their innovation and creativity can we blame them?  If they want to try and figure out a new and better way that works for them should we tell them they're wrong and publicly ridicule them for trying?  Who are we to say what is best for them? Now who's being arrogant, disrespectful and dismissive?  What I have heard over and over, again, from clients and others is, "I wish I hadn't been so scared?  I wish I had their guts."

Bravery, stupidity...call it what you will.  But those brave or stupid people created Google, Zappos, Amazon and so much more than we could ever have anticipated because they DIDN'T follow the traditional models (all driven on customer service and regard for their employees, mmmmmm).

And for those who are in management at law firms, have you ever heard of 'internal marketing?'  It is a wonderful phrase coined by Sybil Sterchik who discusses the concept during an interview with Toby Bloomberg at the very popular Diva Marketing Blog.  She says that when you value your employees, your employees value your customers. 

Internal Marketing is a strategic blend of marketing and human resources focused on taking care of employees so they can take care of customers. While that still sounds warm & fuzzy, nonetheless it’s critical because if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers!

Appreciation, involvement in the process, being part of a company's dialog and success, the creation of a community, translates into loyalty by the employee and profits to the company. 

And this is not a new concept.  It is a forgotten concept,  I know because I experienced it in the companies I worked for in the 80's. I worked at not one, but two, companies who had office happy hours every Friday afternoon hosted by the president.  One company president drove his motorcycle through the company offices giving employees rides.  This same company handed out turkeys to every employee at Thanksgiving, held birthday parties for each employee.  Ten year anniversaries were celebrated with a one week trip to London and a stay at their corporate apartment with show tickets.  Was this a small private company?   One was small.  The other was the U.S. headquarters for an international corporation where I worked for 3 years.  This was a time before executives took $50 million dollar bonuses while telling their employees the company can't afford to give COLA raises while simultaneously reducing their health benefits. When I left the company with the motorcycle-riding president, it was the only time I actually grieved for 'family" because the company invested in creating a culture within the workplace...a culture the employees didn't want to leave.

And I believe the companies I worked for are being described by Ms. Sterchik when she states:

I find it ironic that many companies who do Internal Marketing well aren’t necessarily aware that they’re using Internal Marketing. These are companies with a workplace culture and operations committed to the value of both customers AND employees.

If a company who has employees really believes they can skip this step and retain employees, either they are paying their employees so well they can't afford to leave or they are deluding themselves.

Despite different generational attitudes in the workplace, companies will still need to engage their employees. And that’s where Internal Marketing comes in – enabling organizations to communicate and reinforce a sense of common purpose, a sense of belonging, and a sense of being part of something special, particularly in workplace that’s becoming increasingly insular. Internal Marketing will continue to be relevant as a ‘high touch’ people-centered management approach in a ‘high tech’ world.

So, you see this isn't a generational mandate unique to the Millennial.  This is just good business.

This new generation can't work within an environment which does not respect their goals and values, a management hierarchy which can't conceive of, never mind nurture, a new way of doing things which actually benefits the company and the clients foremost, If law firm managers, even solos looking to hire an associate choose not to recognize this but, instead, behave antagonistically, then they are going to lose the talent they have and certainly not attract new talent.  If this talent strikes out on their own without regrets why are the law firms so mad?  Why should these new lawyers have to take 20 years to figure out they don't want to waste their time at that law firm?  There is 'paying your dues' and then there is selling your soul.  This generation didn't create disloyalty.  It was the previous generation of employers who were disloyal and dishonest and gave this new generation permission to say, 'screw you.'

So, there are some mea culpas to be made by employers.  There are some steps they have to take to create environments to attract today's young worker.  Today's generation is suspicious and self-serving because they've learned no one is going to look out for their best interests better than themselves (or their parents.)

This generation grew up (and is continuing to grow up) connected to a vibrant and diverse community through technology and they can no more leave this connectivity when in the workplace then they can leave their left arm.

Employers should capitalize on this connectivity and the freedom they, too, can experience released from the confines of the 9-5 workday and sterile cubicle and harness the additional strengths of the millennial worker instead of straitjacketing them.  And when there is a strong work community it mitigates the needs for a rigid caste system. The caste system is dead..at least for this generation.

And that is why I believe, more and more lawyers will strike out on their own.  Millennials will be more inclined to pursue their entrepreneurial bend, especially in the law.  And you will see those who have worked so hard within the current system who get the boot or are not rewarded in ways which are meaningful to them more inclined to become solo practitioners.

Then consider the economic times we are facing.  In a time of uncertainty, the direction this world is going, extraordinary debt, health care in crisis, global warming, endless war...there is a certain 'live for the moment' feeling which propels them to say, 'if this isn't working for me, I'm outta here.'  They don't just say, "time is precious."  They live and work knowing time is precious.

Rigidity and lack of consideration for the mindset of this generation is a recipe for economic disaster for businesses of all stripes. Law firms are definitely not immune.

As a solo, there may come a time when you may choose to bring on an associate.  Remember this.  And remember why you chose to go solo, the freedom to control your own time, your own destiny. You realized you'd rather be responsible for your own financial security and you have faith in your abilities to do this.  And when you made (or make) the decision to go solo didn't you, regardless if you are a Baby Boomer, Gen X or Gen Y, basically say the very same thing?  I think the phrase was 'screw you.' :-)

April 16, 2008

What Law School Rankings Don't Say ......

This is a very interesting article from Law.com discussing what law school rankings don't say about this life altering and very expensive decision.

During the last three decades, the size and geographic dispersion of the global economy has dramatically increased the demand for sophisticated corporate legal services. In contrast, the demand for personal-services legal work -- wills and estates, personal injury, family law, simple business contracts, etc. -- has grown at roughly the rate of population growth.

These dynamics have resulted in a "bimodal" income distribution, in which there is a heavy concentration of salaries in two distinct ranges, based on salary figures provided by NALP. At the high end are the large corporate firm starting salaries that so interest the media. In 2006, salaries in the largest firms in major markets jumped from $125,000 to $135,000 to $145,000. Thus out of 22,684 starting salaries reported for 2006, 4,809, or 21.2 percent, were in the $125,000 to $145,000 range. (In 2007, this mode moved further to the right due to associate "salary wars.") Yet prospective lawyers need to remember that most new lawyers do not earn $160,000 a year at a large firm. Many earn $40,000 to $55,000 per year in small to midsize firms and solo practice. In 2006, 8,577 reported salaries, or 37.8 percent, were in this range out of the 22,684. The payments on $100,000-plus worth of law school debt look quite different to someone earning $50,000 than they do to someone earning $160,000 a year.

This is a very important read. Take the time.  However, understand it is very difficult to determine salaries of solos because it is a highly individualized, seldom reported experience as most solos do not participate in salary surveys nor are receiving a W-2.

Here is the ABA's take on this survey.

Links of Interest:  How Much Do Solos REALLY earn?

March 07, 2008

Is it the Worst Time To Be A Lawyer?

On a listserv I frequent there was a recent question and answer session regarding whether or not it is the worst time to be a lawyer, given the economy, glut of lawyers and more.  This was one response I felt compelled to answer:
Worst time to be a lawyer?  Not if you are in Biglaw.

Now if you are planning on opening a solo practice or if you go to a marginal school, well, sure it's a bad time to be a lawyer.... But that would be the case even in the best of times.

(This was my response:)


Solos comprise more than 50% of all private practice attorneys in the country.  In some states, like New York, they are as high as 81%.  In the best of times they do well by their own standards which include, but are not limited to gross income.  In the worst of times they have to rewrite their business model, consider shifting practice areas, just like BigLaw.

However, they never have to worry about a pink slip at an inopportune time, (have you read the news lately) being derailed from a partnership track, office politics, or with proper planning wanting to start a family or taking a vacation.  They are more professionally agile, technologically forward and quite capable of riding out economic downturns if they keep their ear to the ground....as they are a committee of one and just have to say, 'I think I'm going to do this right now.'  And solos don't have to worry about their law school pedigree as dictated by U.S. News and World Report.  They can choose their law school based upon other criteria like proximity to where they live, tuition costs and more.

General Counsel of major Fortune 500 corporations are seeking out solo and small firms because of innovative billing and high tech presentation, one-on-one dealings with the actual lawyer versus layers of associates.  The examples proliferate in the news and around the blogosphere.

Smart and profitable lawyers exist in every employment configuration.  Don't broad brush.  If BigLaw is the ambition, then absolutely strive for it.  But what will you do if the $160,000 associate's position doesn't materialize?  What is your plan B? Know there are other viable and satisfying routes to practicing law regardless the economy. You just have to know where the opportunities are and go for it like any good entrepreneur...except you have a legal license

I've noticed on the listserv something very sad (and frustrating).  The mentality is so firmly />BigLaw or you're a failure, that those students who speak up about their own ambitions to be an entrepreneur are quickly ridiculed, labeled as professionally suicidal (all under the cloak of anonymity) and sternly warned by those 'senior' members who actively dissuade.  With rare exception this is the 'advice' this particular listserv provides.  And there are multiple thousands on this site. Has nothing changed?

I recently spoke with a prospective client who went to a top notch law school, second career lawyer with an incredible background, who was laughed at by his school counsel and fellow law students and deemed foolish for wanting to go solo.  His personality and professional pedigree made him highly desirable but the professional and academic mentality was archaic and limiting.  And to his credit, he immediately went solo upon graduation and is doing just fine, just needs a little help with target marketing.

I almost feel like shouting this old chestnut to the world:  "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing." This paranoid-driven sabotage of those who aspire to conquer new personal and professional frontiers has got to stop. (Ok, who am I kidding. But I've got to try, right?)

February 05, 2008

Fewer Law Firm Options for New Grads? Who'd Have Thought It?

This title is provocative from the New York Lawyer but the information is just not new:

In this reprinted article, it give examples of law school graduates taking non-traditional law jobs because they have to as legal jobs are drying up.

Some experts disagree, but Jeffrey Brand, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law, says Luros' experience may be the start of a bigger trend—at least for students graduating from law schools that aren't among the nation's most elite. Because of economic factors, he says, a number of law firms are scaling back job offers to new graduates.

Alumni report that even large national firms increasingly are looking to hire experienced attorneys, rather than new graduates, either as lateral associates or on a contract basis, Brand says. "There are fewer associate positions for recent graduates. It's going to require them to be more resourceful in figuring out what they're going to do."

Again, I have to make my argument, if law schools don't teach law students how to be entrepreneurs they are guilty of educational malpractice.  Failure to expose students to entrepreneurship and then train them for this very important option available with their legal license, regardless the school, leaves the majority with incredible debt and forced to consider not practicing law.  But that doesn't mean they are unqualified to open their own practice; it just means it presents additional challenges which could have and should have been addressed during their legal training.  To prepare them only for employment when employment options are both changing and dwindling at the same time is just flat out wrong.

Then when others in the profession say, "get a law job first before starting out on your own to get some training, knock down your debt, learn on another's dime' you have to wonder if they are considering this advice makes it seem even more impossible for new lawyers to accomplish anything.

The conversation goes something like this:

New Law Student:    I want to go solo.

Advisor:                  But you don't know anything.

New Law StudentBut I can't get a legal job.

Advisor:                  Well, at least go work for a law firm first to get some experience.  Then go out on your own.  Pay down some debt.  Learn on another's dime.

New Law Student:   That's a great idea.  But did you hear me.  I can't get a legal job.

Advisor:                  Oh?  Well, it sucks being you.

What do you think?

January 10, 2008

Lawyer Auctions His Diploma on E-Bay for the Price of his Education

A very angry new lawyer decides to auction his diploma on E-bay hoping to recoupe what he perceives as a miserable investment:

So America... just how much is an education worth? Let's find out. Up for sale is my law degree.

Yes, you read correctly. Three years and $100,000 plus of debt for your pleasure. Please note that I am in no way claiming that by purchasing this degree you will be given credit for having attended an accredited law school and completing its course of study nor will it give you the necessary credentials to take the bar exam. You will not be able to become a lawyer by purchasing this degree. However this would make a great collectible if your name happens to be David Wold.

Why am I selling this great item? Because it has been nothing but a curse and aggravation in my life. Going to school for this degree has been a joke, and has only brought me stress and misery. This degree has been a great invitation to work at least 60 hours a week at a place where I don't want to be for people that I don't care about. It has helped me develop great relationships with bill collectors as I can't afford the cost this great privilege has afforded me. It has limited my abiltity to pursue other work options as people just can't understand why someone with a law degree wouldn't want to be a lawyer.

Believe it or not, the extensive job dissatisfaction amongst lawyers, high suicide rates, and failed personal relationships that lawyers have isn't enough to convince others that it's not a healthy, worthy pursuit. And of course even if I would be happier as a bartender, I couldn't afford to pay back the loans needed to earn this degree. Though that's true of many that I graduated with. Individuals that wanted to practice law for the benefit of the poor or impoverished or those who can't afford legal counsel are having a hard time too because they aren't paid enough. But that's justice.

The only thing this law degree has been worth to me has been to reinforce my belief that America's higher educational system is another vehicle for driving the economy. Honestly... if education were a priority in this country, wouldn't we make it affordable? No... because if you create an expensive educational system, you endorse the instutionalism of professions which may have no reflection of your actual skill or abilty, and you coerce people to get higher paying jobs needed to pay the high cost of education which further pumps dollars into the economy and creates a higher tax base.

But David... what about the great education and experience you earned with this degree? Surely this is something you respect and a buyer can't get with the purchase of this degree. Oh but wait... If you purchase this item, I will also throw in all the law books I have from this program. Sure you don't get the instruction from the professors, but anyone can tell you which pages to read each day and ask you randomly a few questions about what you read and call that instruction. So you're not missing much.

But what can I possibly do with this degree? Well, the same thing I do with it. Let is sit in your closet as a constant reminder of three years lost in your life or how you could have used that money for educational loans to start your own business or buy a home. Perhaps I have used it quite well. Since I got a degree in screwing people for money, I thought I'd use it for such. My girlfriend have started our own adult site www.(Deleted).com. Perhaps this degree will equally inspire you! So come on America... what is an education worth?

Is a law degree really worth $100,000? I know many of you will say that an education is priceless. For argument's sake, let's say priceless equals $1,000,000. As an incentive for interested buyers that really think an education is worth something, I will make a promise to create a $100,000 scholarship with each $100,000 increment that I profit from (less fees and taxes) with the sale of this degree over $500,000. But isn't that greedy on your part, David? The educational costs weren't that much. True... but the misery I've been honored to experience and the opportunities lost do equal about that amount. And it is my degree, so there.

Surprisingly, I sympathize with this man, but not for the reasons you may think.  We all have responsibilities for our debts and we should have some knowledge about the costs associated with going for a graduate degree.  But like many, he has been sold a bill of goods about job prospects and not been provided reasonable alternatives during the course of his education which included entrepreneurship with his degree.  He came to believe, as many, that going to law school is a ticket to making money and that jobs abound.

I agree with his take on the costs associated with education.  Other countries build into their tax system free higher education.  Maybe their economies have different challenges but their citizens are educated.  Higher education is a money machine starting with all the student loan and private loan agencies, to the government as lender and the inability to discharge the debt even in bankruptcy yet we are told over and over you can't survive in this world without a higher education.  This makes the garage-billionaire very attractive and why so many are trying to bypass higher education.  The debt and servitude to that debt, the parents sacrificing retirement to provide that education, is terrifying to everyone.  And for what, no job prospects?

David claims to be an entrepreneur?  While he builds his porn site why isn't he using his legal degree to build his own legal practice?  Probably because noone taught him how or he went to law school for the wrong reasons or he's just a pissed off person trying to garner some attention or all three. I don''t know.  But the points he brings up for all of us are valid.

January 08, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To My Law Office Management Class - It Was Cancelled!

https://www.centerbrook.com/Assets/qclaw-x05.gifTonight, January 8, 2008, would have marked the beginning of my eighth year at Quinnipiac University School of Law teaching law students how to open their own law practice right out of law school. Yet, effective immediately my Law Office Management Class has been cancelled.  But the reasons might surprise you. 

First, the facts.  My class has been wait-listed for years because it was very popular even though labor-intensive.  The most I would accept was 30 students.  It also included a guest panel of new solos up to three years out from Quinnipiac who would tell their stories and the students could ask any number of questions. Now 30 students out of under 400 total student population is a sizeable percentage of students opting to take this little 'ol adjunct's elective two credit course.  A practical skills course. And therein lies the problem. 

I was informed tenured professor's elective classes were being cancelled because they would get just 2 or 3 students signing up. Now they are TENURED professors which means they get paid no matter what. This unexpected shortfall of registrants in tenured professors' classes was due to 1) a deliberate reduction in the admitting class to up the LSAT scores of the entering class and 2) the decline in overall admissions making the class size even smaller than anticpated and 3) students opting to take my course instead of the courses they 'ought' to take. It's called 'credit envy.' 

By eliminating my class 30 students are now forced to take classes they 'ought' to take instead of the classes they would like to take to meet their credit requirements.  This way the approved 'ought to take' courses taught by tenured professors can be run and the course offering can remain in the school's catalogue and satisfy the ABA accreditation committee.  See, once a class hasn't been offered for so many semesters it must be removed from the catalog. Not good.

So, even if Joe Student wants to take Susan Cartier Liebel's Law Office Management course which will teach him the business end of practicing law he will be forced to take tenured Professor X's arcane offering instead because it is taught by an academic who has been feeling threatened nobody wants to take her course.  And these are the very people who run the committees who decide which courses should or should not be offered. 

But to make 'credit envy' not look so obvious, after eight years they decided to tell me my class was not 'academic' enough....no case law, no socratic method. It doesn't matter the course I taught does not lend itself to case law analysis or this style of teaching. It's their right and privilege to offer the courses of their choosing.

If you think I am making this up, however, and there is another story I'm not telling, there is no 'spinning' going on here. It's the truth. It was told to me directly from the horse's mouth.  But just in case you still question me, a generous and thoughtful reader forwarded the following article dated yesterday, January 7, 2008 from the Chronicle of Higher Education. highlighting this past week's Association of American Law Schools (AALS) annual meeting. I give you the horse's mouth:

While many people at the annual meeting spoke with excitement about the chance to "revolutionize" legal education, others questioned whether some of the proposed changes, particularly the emphasis on practical skills, were feasible, or even desirable.

How Adjuncts Could Help—or Hurt

Bringing in an adjunct to team-teach a course is a relatively affordable way that a law school could bring the real world into the classroom, participants suggested. Retired lawyers and practicing alumni would be likely candidates.

But even that idea drew skepticism.

"That strikes me as something that might be threatening to faculty members," said Brad Saxton, dean of Quinnipiac University School of Law.

The impression students might get, Mr. Saxton said, is "The dean here doesn't really know because he hasn't done it in a while, but here's how it plays out on the ground."

Martha L. Minow, a professor at Harvard Law School, said her institution had its share of skeptics when it overhauled its curriculum last year.

"There seems to be an amazing ability to cover the waterfront with two sentences," which also shoot down any possibility for change, she said. The first sentence, she said, is "We've tried that before." The second is "We've never tried that before."

The supremacy of faculty autonomy is another barrier. There's a feeling that "we are kings and queens of our classrooms, and we don't have to consult with anyone, thank you," Ms. Minow said.

Another challenge of more closely integrating theory and practice is getting beyond biases that faculty have about each other: that clinical faculty aren't as intellectually qualified and that theoretical faculty are out of touch with the real world. "As long as we're looking at each other with these biases it's hard to have respect for each other and work together," said Suellyn Scarnecchia, law dean at the University of New Mexico.

(I encourage you to read the entire article here.  It really tells you why the law school's are incapable of any meaningful change in my lifetime. Personally, I suggest they get rid of tenure completely.  Nobody should be that secure.  It breeds complacency and arrogance and destructive self-interest.)

In all fairness to Brad, he is a good man, a good educator, a good dean and very forward thinking.  His heart is really in the right place. But he does answer to many who are self-proclaimed "kings and queens" who definitely feel threatened by any change. A few years ago I was invited to participate on a committee looking to create a solo and small firm practice center starting with a concentration in the same. The Dean was very supportive of this idea. However, this is an example of a progressive idea that died in committee destroyed by internal fighting and egos and blatant self-preservation by the royalty.

There are numerous faculty members I deeply admire for their dedication and committment to the students and the law who recognize and actively promote and fight for progress. But the needs of a narrow and small-minded few seem to overpower the majority and eventually spirits and passions die. 

I was given an offer, however, to teach my course non-credit to new graduates during the time period after they take the bar exam and before they learn whether or not they've passed.  I will decline this offer.

In case you are wondering, I don't regret writing this post or publishing it on the internet. I'm also not even remotely upset. Teaching at Quinnipiac offered me many opportunities to advance to my current position and for that I'm grateful.  But my run there has ended and it was a good run. I will continue to educate law students and lawyers alike from a different, more exciting platform, not one confined to a classroom or even one law school. This truly energizes me with the possibilities.  As a matter of fact, I've been working with someone for a while now to make 'Solo Practice University' a reality, bigger and more expansive than Solo Practice University E-zine.

This year promises to be very exciting!

January 06, 2008

Knickers Are Twisting Over Innovative Adjunct Telling Students They MUST Blog

I love it.  Read this from the Adjunct Professor's Law Blog:

Adjunct Law Professor Requires Students To Participate On His Blog

Barry Law School Professor Marc John Randazza states on his class syllabus that is posted on his blog/web page:

Overall Participation will be 10 points (out of 100) for class participation and 10 points for blog participation. Exceptional participation in either department can make up for some a deficiency in the other. So, if you are a “quiet person,” you may want to hit the blog pretty effectively.

This raises some important issues. Is posting on a blog the same as class participation? Will students compete with each other for the most blog postings? Should we encourage this? Is the professor simply trying to increase his traffic? What if students do not have access to the internet?

Any comments or thoughts?

Please post once as typepad holds posts for approval.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

I'm sorry.  Mitchell Rubinstein, you may be a helluva a guy and a great adjunct but to question whether it is appropriate for an adjunct to introduce students to blogging by actually doing it, getting recognition for their efforts, teaching them something valuable in an unorthodox way doesn't come across right to this reader, at least.  Students get a chance to author on a popular blog which has reach in the legal 'hiring' community, a blog which discusses first amendment issues with a recognized First Amendment lawyer sounds fabulous and innovative and down-right brilliant to me.  Oh, and yeah, I read this on YOUR BLOG.

To suggest it is about driving traffic?  That's petty.  Then to ask, "what if students don't have access to the internet?"  Show me one student who doesn't schlep their laptop to class I'M'ing instead of taking notes.  And even if they don't have a computer or laptop, the school provides internet access.  Why is anything innovative, creative, exciting, beneficial struck down by the dull.  I apologize Mitchell if I've misinterpreted what you wrote, but those are the chances you take when you put fingers to keyboard and press 'publish.'

Here is Attorney Randazza's Grading Policy .  You decide.  And this on the heels of my last post regarding the power of 'creativity.'

January 05, 2008

A Law School Career Counseling Office Making Housecalls?

This initiative really impressed me.  Imagine if your law school career counseling officer came to visit you after graduation to see how you were doing and to see how they may be of further assistance in your efforts to find employment?  Wouldn't that be impressive?

Well, in Iowa that is just what they are doing.  Hat tip to Ed Wiest for alerting me to this article.

University of Iowa College of Law alumni who can't quite figure out what to do next with their careers should sit tight because UI officials will come to them.

The law school has a fairly new program where an official from the college travels across Iowa and around the country to meet face-to-face with graduates to help them re-assess their careers.

"This is part of a bigger picture of what we are trying to develop, thinking about the admission process all the way through alumni life about how students think about and act on career choices," said Steve Langerud, the college's associate dean for career services who helped launch the program and now leads it.

Since the program began last spring, Langerud has met with about 100 alumni in Iowa and cities such as Phoenix, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City. Langerud expects to counsel 200 to 250 alumni a year when the program is fully implemented.

I wonder how many T1 schools are doing this type of initiative?  If you are a reader from UI would love to know your experiences.  And if you have a story to tell about your career counseling office please share.  You can do so anonyomously, too.  But this is a huge issue for law schools and students and shouldn't be kept quiet.