December 30, 2007

Free Legal Education Through OpenCourseWare from T1 Law Schools? Wouldn't That Be Sweet!

Imagine really informing the public for FREE about the mysteries behind the study of law through OpenCourseWare such as being used by MIT, Yale, Harvard and more.  Great article

The world's top universities have come late to the world of online education, but they're arriving at last, creating an all-you-can eat online buffet of information.

And mostly, they are giving it away.

MIT's initiative is the largest, but the trend is spreading. More than 100 universities worldwide, including Johns Hopkins, Tufts and Notre Dame, have joined MIT in a consortium of schools promoting their own open courseware. You no longer need a Princeton ID to hear the prominent guests who speak regularly on campus, just an Internet connection. This month, Yale announced it would make material from seven popular courses available online, with 30 more to follow.

As with many technology trends, new services and platforms are driving change. Last spring marked the debut of "iTunes U," a section of Apple's popular music and video downloading service now publicly hosting free material from 28 colleges. Meanwhile, the University of California, Berkeley recently announced it would be the first to make full course lectures available on YouTube. Berkeley was already posting lectures, but YouTube has dramatically expanded their reach.

If there isn't yet something for everyone, it's only a matter of time. On iTunes, popular recent downloads include a climate change panel at Stanford, lectures on existentialism by Cal-Berkeley professor Hubert Dreyfus, and a performance of Mozart's requiem by the Duke Chapel Choir. Berkeley's offerings include 48 classes, from "Engineering Thermodynamics" to "Human Emotion."

"It's almost as good as being there," said Whelan, the Massachusetts retiree, of the MIT classes he has sampled. "The only thing that's lacking is the pressure." He says he usually doesn't do the homework assignments, but adds: "Now that I'm not in school I don't have to do that anymore."

YouTube, iTunes, OpenCourseWare — none are the full college experience. You can't raise your hand and ask a question. You can't get a letter of recommendation.

And most importantly, almost everywhere, you can't get credit or earn a degree.

That caveat, however, is what has made all this possible.

When the Internet emerged, experts predicted it would revolutionize higher education, cutting its tether to a college campus. Technology could help solve one of the fundamental challenges of the 21st century: providing a mass population with higher education at a time when a college degree was increasingly essential for economic success.

Today, the Internet has indeed transformed higher education. A multibillion-dollar industry, both for-profit and non-profit, has sprung up offering online training and degrees. Figures from the Sloan Consortium, an online learning group, report about 3.5 million students are signed up for at least one online course — or about 20% of all students at degree-granting institutions.

But it hasn't been as clear what role — if any — elite universities would play in what experts call the "massification" of higher education. Their finances are based on prestige, which means turning students away, not enrolling more. How could they teach the masses without diminishing the value of their degree?

But MIT's 2001 debut of OpenCourseWare epitomized a key insight: Elite universities can separate their credential from their teaching — and give at least parts of their teaching away as a public service. They aren't diminishing their reputations at all. In fact, they are expanding their reach and reputation.

Professors teaching for free beyond their campus, their state, their country and across the globe. Can you envision the possibilties for law schools?  Will it ever happen, though?  That is the question.  Or are we too protectionist?  Is a truly informed public dangerous to our livelihood, our egos?  Does this type of free education of the masses bring us further towards commoditization of legal services? Would it force the ABA to tighten their control over who may or may not take the bar? I don't know for sure, but I have an idea.  And you?

And as a parent, why not start introducing your high school aged kids to online educating from the supposed best and brightest to give them a heads up on their college experience? At the very least, I'm going back to school and maybe my husband will join me!

December 13, 2007

Are Student Loans the Next Mortgage Crisis?

(UPDATE: 1/17/08 - Small Student Loan Lenders are closing up shop, cutting back on incentives and pickier about who they will lend money to.)

This article from US News and World Report questions whether student loans could be the next meltdown after the mortgage crisis.

There are growing worries that millions of college and graduate students may have borrowed too much, creating a predicament that parallels the current mortgage meltdown. Bond-rating agencies last week noted a troubling uptick in defaults on private educational loans, and the U.S. Department of Education reported that almost 12 percent of all federal loans that came due in 2001 are already in default.

And the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project has this to say:

The existing counseling requirements for federal loans are ineffective, simply one of many hoops students jump through to get their student aid checks. However, the poor track record of mandatory counseling should not obscure the potential benefits of targeted counseling for student loan borrowers.

Early intervention is essential because the costs rapidly pile up once trouble begins. Student loan collectors are allowed to charge enormous collection fees that are not even tied to the amount of effort expended. At the same time, interest accrues and the borrower is hounded by collectors and faced with the prospect of never-ending collection efforts.

Never borrow more then the barest minimum you require, not even for that 'well-deserved vacaction' after the bar exam.  And do not let the financial aid officers push you into loans that are unworkable.  Their primary mission is to collect tuitions in full and fast.  (Remember THIS student loan Watergate?)Secondarily, they will see if they can help you negotiate the best deal for yourself but not if it means sacrificing their jobs or their perks.

I remember one semester my financial aid officer did not like the idea of waiting an extra three weeks for tuition because there was a delay with my preferred lender and it was a federal loan fully subsidized.  She said, 'you are going to simply have to get a private loan because we need tuition by such and such date or you will not be permitted to start classes. "  I told her very politely, "you will either wait an additional two weeks for your money coming from the lender of my choice or I will withdraw myself right now." Surprise.  They waited.

You are going to be lawyers.  Read these promissory notes you are signing.  And start advocating for yourself the way you expect to advocate for others because once you graduate you don't want to walk into a nightmare.

December 07, 2007

Do You Really Know Why Your Law School Ranks Where It Does?

Law School Groupie, a soon-to-be law student blogging about the process, resurrects a New York Times archival piece exposing the real truth about law school rankings and how law schools can distort the rankings through tricks and maneuverings which mislead students.  Groupie analyzed the NYT piece so well I will give him or her the honors.  You can read the blog post here. Or if you want to go right to the New York Times piece it is called The $8.78 Million Dollar Maneuver.

Some highlights:

I had no idea that U.S. News & World Reports' (USNWR) rankings had anything to do with the school's expenditure per student, but this NYT article breaks it down for us.

These student expenditures affect only 1.5 percent of a school's U.S. News ranking, but this is a competition where fractions of a point matter.

The University of Illinois College of Law provides students with access to Westlaw and LexisNexis, paying $75,000 to $100,000 for those services. But when reporting to the bar association and USNWR:

...the school put that figure at $8.78 million, more than 80 times what LexisNexis and Westlaw actually charge. This inflated expense accounted for 28 percent of the law school's total expenditures on students...

Expenditure on students only account for 1.5% of the ranking - still, wherever you can come out ahead it's going to help. And the schools aren't stopping there:

In addition to student expenditures, there are ways that law schools can affect the 11 other ''measures of quality''* that U.S. News uses in assembling its rankings. When they hire their own new graduates as temps, that pumps up their employment figures; when they admit weaker applicants through backdoor mechanisms, that makes their admissions standards look stronger.

There are many other great quotes pulled from the NYT piece (including how a high LSAT score will always trump a high GPA or real life experience).

In spite of the notion that life experience plays into the admissions process, it seems all but the top 4 (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia) really care about that.

Among the various rankings criteria, undergraduate grade point averages (10 percent) and scores from the Law School Admission Test (12.5 percent) play a crucial role. That compromises student diversity, says Jeffrey E. Stake, a co-organizer of the symposium and a law professor at Indiana University, Bloomington. ''Service to the country in Iraq or in the Peace Corps goes out the window,'' he says. ''Starting your own business goes out the window in favor of LSAT's and grades. The question 'Is this person going to be a good lawyer?' is being displaced by 'Is this person going to help our numbers?'''

In fairness, this article is more than two years old and I'm sure some investigation has been done.  But I question how much has really changed.

Now do you understand why I despise rankings?

Additional Reading:

Law Students Want One Thing.  USNWR Wants Another....

Law Students are Spoonfed Sunshine and Lollipops...

No Practical Training at Your Law School? Blame the ABA. Guest Blogger - Edward Wiest

Long time Build A Solo Practice reader, Edward Wiest, is a solo in Massachussetts and a Harvard Law School graduate. He wrote such a terrific comment to my frequent challenges to law schools not offering practical training, I asked him if I could use his commentary as a guest post and he graciously agreed.

It’s one thing to point out—as this blawg and others have done—that the U.S. News ranking system doesn’t tell prospective law students much about whether any law school will actually prepare them to practice, rather than merely learn, law.  I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for prospective customers to drive real change in law school curricula.  There are huge institutional constraints limiting the ability of the legal academy to provide any real introduction to the world their students—whether bound for BigLaw or a home office upon graduation—will enter upon graduation.  It will take more than agitation from applicants to drive real change. 

ABA rules governing the accreditation of law schools—and, effectively, their graduates’ ability to sit for the bar on a nationwide basis—effectively mandate separation between the legal academy and the real world of practice.  Point your browser to the ABA’s published standards for law schools.  Standard 402 and interpretation 402-4 strongly discourage the use of even full-time faculty with significant outside practices (e.g., ongoing real-world contact).  Standard 304(f) provides for the adoption of rules limiting full-time students’ compensated part-time work (presumably for paying clients) during the academic year to 20 hours per week.   Interpretation 305-3 provides that schools are not to award academic credit for field placement if a student receives payment in excess of expenses—a substantial disincentive to creating clinical placements in the private sector (outside the context of four year law co-op programs such as those at Northeastern).  Micromanagement by accreditation, however, does not extend to career services offices;  Standard 511 requires only that there be "an active career counseling service to assist students in making sound career choices and obtaining employment".  It doesn’t require that a placement office provide the same support to aspiring solos as to those seeking traditional employment upon graduation—as was reported here in March 2007. The battle between Massachusetts School of Law and the ABA illustrate how the accreditation rules favor institutions designed from the outset to train scholars rather than independent practitioners ready to hit the ground running after graduation. (See Chuck Newton's great post on MSL here.)

The isolation of law students from contact with the day-to-day business problems that real world practitioners face every day is also embedded by the bias in clinical programs toward civil work solely for pro bono (i.e., non-paying) clients.  ABA and state law student practice rules effectively bar law students from doing real work for credit for paying customers who might teach students a few things about how to manage a client relationship, particularly one which imposes economic restraints on what the lawyer can do (can the client afford one more deposition or an appeal?).  City Journal noted the problematic nature of these limitations in a 2006 article.  The system—as it exists today—essentially is one in which survival in private practice is left to on the job training once formal doctrinal education tested on the bar exam ends.

You can look it up—I’m a graduate of “the” Tier I law school and proud to be one.  Nonetheless, Detroit Mercy's well documented efforts to bring the real world into the classroom may prove to be a lot better idea than programs for the study of the legal profession focused on the management of large professional firms (like this one I read about in an alumni magazine).  Law students, particularly the stars headed to the top tier who rely on The Vault, Above the Law, and press reports about the life of BigLaw associates as a career guide won't get that message until law schools start to spread the word that there are many pathways a new lawyer can take--and that they have modified their curriculum to do more than prepare students for a scholars' life or a shot at BigLaw.  The law schools that communicate such a message effectively are those most likely to move up a tier or two with their customers—regardless of what conclusion the U.S. News survey may reach.   

Edward R. Wiest

Edward R. Wiest, PC

Business Litigation and ADR

(including Securities Arbitration)

Admitted in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey

81 Dana Street

Cambridge, MA 02138-4310

tel: (617) 547-6500/(781) 391-9129

fax: (617) 507-1259

November 19, 2007

Detroit Mercy School of Law Says, "We Care What the Students Want" and Apparently Big Law is Thrilled, Too

On the heels of my last post, soon to be lawyer Sarah at Learning Curve introduces us to the following article:

You may find this Detroit News article interesting regarding the University of Detroit Mercy's recent implementation of a new curriculum at their law school.

You can also view info about the new curriculum on their website.

And my very eloquent friend, Chuck Newton, has written a terrific explanatory piece as follow up which takes the conversation further. 

This type of story, this proactive approach by a law school which has openly turned its back on US News gives me hope. Is this the law school I described in my previous post?

Someone has to break free from the pack...decide to ground themselves in common sense, care about what their students want while still meeting their doctrinal obligations.  And in turn this law school has discovered it is what potential employers want, too. But the added bonus, if you don't want to work for another, you are equipped to go out on your own!

My hat is off to Detroit Mercy School of Law.

(And please read some very astute comments to my previous post from students and new lawyers, alike.)

November 18, 2007

Law Students Want One Thing - U.S. News & World Report Wants Another - Law Schools Care More About US News

According to a recent study: (As reported by ABA Journal On Line)

Law students care about factors that aren’t considered or aren’t influential in the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings, according to a survey by The National Jurist.

The top factors named by law students were quality of teaching, bar passage rate, placement rate at nine months, practical skills training and faculty-student relations. But U.S. News doesn’t consider quality of teaching, practical skills training or faculty-student relations, while bar passage rate and placement have low importance in the U.S. News rankings.

In U.S. News, reputation among law professors and deans accounts for 25 percent of a law school’s rank, while reputation by judges and lawyers accounts for 15 percent. That is followed by placement rate at nine months after graduation (14 percent), median LSAT scores (12.5 percent) and undergrad GPA (10 percent).

The National Jurist quoted a study by Theodore Seto, a tax law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. His findings suggest that the rankings can be fickle. He says law schools can affect their rank by placing more emphasis on placement rate and GPA factors.

If you are wondering why your law school doesn't or didn't have a law office management class that can teach you how to actually function as a lawyer in solo practice this is the reason.  It doesn't rank with U.S. News and World Report.  Training you to actually be a lawyer doesn't fulfill their mission.  Nor does the quality of the teaching or whether or not your school has a high bar passage rate.   What does matter is your G.P.A. at entrance and the reputation of the professors (read: are they published)?

How does this help the law student who wants to go solo?  How does this help any law student.

I have friends in academia at a few law schools, little birdies who tell me the inside scoop on why law office management classes, practical skills classes with value to new students on the 'how to's,'  are not being offered.  Why? Because they dilute classrooms and draw students away from doctrinal electives.  If students have the option to take an elective practical skills course which is usually taught by an adjunct, a practicing attorney, they will opt for this rather than a doctrinal elective taught by a tenured professor.  If a tenured professor's class does not get taken, the class must be cancelled but the tenured professor is still paid.  And this tenured professor is teaching a class academia feels 'ought' to be taken by the students over a practical skills course, an overpraid tenured professor (compared to an adjunct) with 'reputation' that ranks with U.S. News & World Report.  Solution?  Just get rid of the practical skills course and the students will have nothing else to register for to meet their credit requirements but the doctrinal elective.  Problem solved.

Now, I'm not saying there aren't many excellent professors who care about their students, have a profound love of the law and enrich their students education immensely.  They, too, are under pressure to publish and build reputation for the sake of keeping their job and securing tenure.  But what rankles me is all of this is in pursuit of an artificial ranking?  It is not about the paying customer, the student.  So, students come out ill-prepared for actually functioning as a lawyer, fighting for limited high paying jobs saddled with back-breaking debt.  Is it any wonder 50% of all lawyers leave the profession? Or why law school admissions are dropping? (Some would argue this isn't a bad thing...fewer lawyers, etc.)

But imagine a law school which paid attention to it's paying customers, the students.  Created an educational experience comprised of doctrinal and practical skills classes in proper balance and at a fair price.  This school would have so many high caliber students they wouldn't have to artificially decrease the admitting class size to raise entering students' G.P.A's.  Or produce fewer graduates to have what appears then to be a higher placement statistic. The employers at their job fairs would actually want them and not dread another graduating class who know very little. Whether looking to be employed by another or to strike out on their own, these students would be well prepared and a credit to the profession. 

Well, if you are a frequent reader of this blog chances are you have the entrepreneurial spirit.  Would this imaginary law school's curriculum have appealed to you?  Or did you get the education you wanted at your law school and for a price you could deal with?  How much did U.S. News & World Report influence your choice of school? Inquiring minds want to know.

November 09, 2007

Every Once In A Great While....I Agree With Larry Bodine. Do You?

Today Larry Bodine called it like it is in his post "Good Law Schools Make For Bad Marketers":

"Peter Darling observes in the Business Development blog that "if you go to a hot school, you will get a much better job out of the gate, if "better" means big firm, big city, high salary. However, you will also have a harder time, I think, learning to market yourself."

Good law schools make for bad legal marketing, he says.  I'll go further: ALL law schools are useless when it comes to legal marketing.

"Even at elite schools, Darling says, when students are ejected out into big firms, first of all, they often have no idea how the "soft" part of a career functions -- interpersonal relationships, strategy, networking, etc. They're not used to being treated as cogs in a much bigger machine. And finally, they have absolutely no idea of how to market themselves, or, fatally, why it matters.

They've always done well. They've always made it to the next step through sheer performance. But as I've written many times, the real world, the marketplace in which they function, is not that way at all. It's chaotic, and requires skills -- like selling, and networking -- that they've never needed. The result can be trouble."

I've given up on the law schools.  Their response to marketing training has always been lame, and it won't change.  Lawyers are better off doing what the rainmakers do: getting business development training or coaching once they're in practice."

While I don't agree all law schools' responses have been lame, as I don't think Larry knows all level of law school or the efforts they are making, for the most part business development and marketing are not a focus because it is not of primary benefit to the law school when it comes to their job placement numbers.  And their financial lives are dictated by job placement numbers.  They also disregard economic realities for most of their students.  Call me naive, but I still believe there will be a change...not because of a simple recognition it is best for the students, but because there will be pressure to change as has been written on this blog in various incarnations.

October 18, 2007

Another Harvard Law Grad Says, "Why Didn't Law School Teach Me How to Hang A Shingle?"

(UPDATE:  10/20/07 - Check out continued discussion at Defending People...)

I ran across this article in the Harvard Record from new lawyer Ryan Alexander who chose to hang a shingle with two others upon graduation in 2007.  He is now officially a partner in the law firm of Alexander, Odunze & Kang in Las Vegas, Nevada.

With a record of ninety on-campus-interviews this new lawyer comes to grips with the following:

I might hold a record for on-campus interviews at HLS, with an estimated ninety interviews over three years of OCI. I ate hundreds of chocolate pretzels and tried to get an associate position with BigLaw like most students. However, it took a long time to come to grips with my own personality and preferences and choose what I really wanted, to not suppress my feelings and take the $160,000 a year. Ultimately, my decision to start my own small firm came down to a "non-corporate" personality, desire for control and the income potential of being in business for myself.

The greatest confidence boost he received while in law school were the clinical programs as there was no law office management class.  In the past I have encouraged law students to get as much clinical experience as possible to get the 'feel' of actually being a lawyer, client contact, working open files with supervision and so much more.  Internships, externships, trial practice, negotiation, ADR.  This is what you need....while in law school.

I would never have had the confidence and experience to start a law firm right out of school without the clinical programs at HLS. I participated both in the transactional Recording Artists' Project / Community Enterprise Project ("CEP") at the Hale Dorr Center and the Criminal Justice Institute ("CJI"). CEP taught me how to file business entities and draft hefty music industry contracts, while CJI taught me courtroom advocacy, motions practice and how to build up a case. I strongly recommend that you do as much clinical work as possible. Two semesters of supervised HLS clinics are worth much more than a year or two in BigLaw as an associate.

He further laments how law school fails the entrepreneur:

I wish more students considered "hanging a shingle." I hope HLS will eventually offer a seminar in running your own practice to open up students' eyes to the possibility. HLS students are too risk averse for their own good - there is a lot of demand for services that you can provide for people. Many students go to BigLaw against their conscience or interests and hate lawyering, because they are not true to themselves. There is another path. It is exciting, liberating and uniquely fulfilling to have your own practice. You can prepare for it and be ready.

While you might say, "he went to Harvard.  He's got it easier,"  I would have to disagree.  Fear is fear.  Not following one's own desires and personality and terror at breaking free from the herd is not unique to Harvard Law graduates.  This mentality is instilled in all law students, the mantra, "you can't do it.  Who would hire you? You're a malpractice case waiting to happen" is drummed into your head from day one wherever you go to school.  He just paid more for the brainwashing.

There are many stories like Attorney Ryan's.  Thanks to the internet stories like these are available more readily.  And with this information you can find the support you need to make a go of it if that's your real desire.

Related Link:

Following Another's Definition of Success..... 

September 23, 2007

Law School Not A Ticket To Printing Money

Here is a very sobering article from the Wall Street Journal's Emir Efrati which finally exposes through real numbers that law school graduates are not getting the promised jobs, the six-figure incomes or the professional prestige once associated with law school.  Law school is a low cost, high-return money maker for universities and they are luring students in with promises and not delivering the goods..except for the top few at the top tier schools. 

On the supply end, more lawyers are entering the work force, thanks in part to the accreditation of new law schools and an influx of applicants after the dot-com implosion earlier this decade. In the 2005-06 academic year, 43,883 Juris Doctor degrees were awarded, up from 37,909 for 2001-02, according to the American Bar Association. Universities are starting up more law schools in part for prestige but also because they are money makers. Costs are low compared with other graduate schools and classrooms can be large. Since 1995, the number of ABA-accredited schools increased by 11%, to 196.

Evidence of a squeezed market among the majority of private lawyers in the U.S., who work as sole practitioners or at small firms, is growing. A survey of about 650 Chicago lawyers published in the 2005 book "Urban Lawyers" found that between 1975 and 1995 the inflation-adjusted average income of the top 25% of earners, generally big-firm lawyers, grew by 22% -- while income for the other 75% actually dropped.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the inflation-adjusted average income of sole practitioners has been flat since the mid-1980s. A recent survey showed that out of nearly 600 lawyers at firms of 10 lawyers or fewer in Indiana, wages for the majority only kept pace with inflation or dropped in real terms over the past five years.

So, the reality not mentioned is the schools are not offering the necessary business training required to utilize the degree earned for entrepreneurship as a realistic alternative to unfulfilled promises of BigLaw jobs.  Yet they are opening their doors to more students looking to better themselves, their lives and who are willing to take on astronomical debt because they believe opportunities exist.

Yet economic data suggest that prospects have grown bleaker for all but the top students, and now a number of law-school professors are calling for the distribution of more-accurate employment information. Incoming students are "mesmerized by what's happening in big firms, but clueless about what's going on in the bottom half of the profession," says Richard Sander, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles who has studied the legal job market.

"Prospective students need solid comparative data on employment outcomes, [but] very few law schools provide such data," adds Andrew Morriss, a law professor at the University of Illinois who has studied the market for new lawyers.

Students entering law school have little way of knowing how tight a job market they might face. The only employment data that many prospective students see comes from school-promoted surveys that provide a far-from-complete portrait of graduate experiences.

There is always the argument students should be doing their own homework but as I've argued before they are relying on the integrity of the law schools to provide information that is accurate. Is including a job at Starbucks fair information for law schools to include in 'employment numbers.'  Is it any wonder the information isn't accurate?  Doesn't look too good for the law schools now, does it?

And the NALP concedes it cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information it collects:

Academics who have studied new-lawyer salaries say that the graduate surveys of many law schools are skewed by higher response rates from the most successful students. The National Association for Law Placement, which aggregates and publishes national data based on those surveys, concedes that it can't vouch for their accuracy. "We can't validate the figures; we have to rely on schools to report to us accurately," says Judy Collins, NALP's director of research.

But solos, as indicated in this article, are keeping up with inflation for the most part.  Imagine if their law schools gave them the information they needed to be entrepreneurs right from the start?  They could start marketing this very real option to their students and not be deceptive in the slightest.

Additional Reading:

Can We Turn Law School Education on It's Ear? The Randazza Manifesto

Law Students Being Fed Sunshine and Lollipops

August 20, 2007

Can We Turn Law School Education On Its Ear? The Randazza Manifesto

I've e-met a kindred spirit in the teaching world.  If I met him in person the first thing I would do is hug him and thank him for writing this blog post which is a must read if we are to seriously bring about change in legal education.  And when I say change I'm talking about at the professorial level, matching up the legal education model with the actual experience of practicing law.

Marc Randazza is an associate with the national law firm of Weston, Garrou, Dewitt and Walters (the metro Orlando, Florida office) one of the premier law firms practicing in the area of First Amendment protections. He is currently an adjunct professor at Barry University School of Law. (Don't start the whole Tier 1,2,3,4 nonsense.) Read this and see if you don't agree.

The Randazza Manifesto for Legal Education:

At the Randazza School of Law, we would have the following rules:

  1. More respect: If you can’t treat your students with respect, why are you teaching? How you treat your students is setting an example for how they will treat other attorneys when they start to practice law. You are setting an example, act like it. Worse yet, at least one of your students will probably teach one day. Break the cycle NOW.
  2. Diversity. Much more diversity. I don’t just mean on racial lines. You do not have “diversity” when you use racial criteria to create the appearance of diversity, when all you really have is a Benetton ad. By that I mean everyone looks different, but the same crap is inside their heads. Stop being lazy about diversity and truly seek out a diverse body of experiences, interests, world views, and social classes. Such an approach would still result in racial diversity, but it would truly accomplish the underlying educational goal.
  3. No full time professors who have never had a “real job.” No professors without three years of real-world experience (and preferably much more). By that I mean working in a law firm, dealing with clients, and preferably using a billing pad (this is not to diss public interest lawyering experience - that should count too). Clerking, even at the Supreme Court, is nifty — but if you don’t know how your work will actually impact real bill-paying (or justice seeking) clients, what are you going to bring to your students that they couldn’t learn by reading a book? Your students are here to learn how to be lawyers. If you have never been one, then how are you going to help your students learn how to be one?
  4. Ok, one or two academic types. Lets caveat the above by saying that there can be one or two “ivory tower” types. The best (by far) law professor I had didn’t even have a JD — he had a Ph.D. So, I suppose there is nothing inherently wrong with having academics as law professors, but lets make them the rarity, not the norm. If you never had a job, you had damn well better have a Ph.D. and something to offer beyond “I went to law school just so that I could teach law, which means I want to write law review articles and ignore my students.
  5. More cowbell. Wait, no, more adjuncts. See above. Helps a lot with career networking. Maybe it is because I am an adjunct, therefore I am biased. That disclosed, I think that my best teaching comes when I go from work to class and tie “what I did at work today” to “what you are going to learn today.” (I admit, I stole this idea from the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover), which I personally believe is the best law school in the country - yes, better than Georgetown.
  6. More ethics. There are a lot of lawyers who have no real respect for the profession and who make the rest of us look bad. Where do you think they learned that? Or, more likely, where did someone fail to teach that out of them? Law school. Teach client control. Teach ethics. Teach civility.
  7. Alma Mater Doesn’t Mater: I went to a so-called “top tier law school.” I also took classes at a second tier law school. I teach at a fourth tier law school. I took Bar/Bri at a third tier school. The difference in the students? Nada. Well, actually, I find more collegiality and less over privileged whiners at the lower tiers. Does that mean that I wouldn’t hire a professor who went to Yale? No. But what it does mean is that the whole law-school-pedigree game is bullshit. The first thing we do at the Randazza school of law is run a sharpie over the name of your alma mater, and then photocopy your C.V. I’m not impressed by my own alma mater (even though some people are)… I’m certainly not impressed by yours. Harvard, Yale, and Stanford contribute the most professors to the teaching pool. Legal education sucks. Therefore, HYS must be doing something wrong.
  8. More mentoring. Your responsibility neither ends when the bell tolls, nor after graduation. If you are a good professor, your students will trust you and turn to you for a long time. This should be the norm. My students have my home, office, and cell numbers and are invited to use them for the rest of their careers. Most of my professors seemed to have little time for me as a student, let alone an ex-student. Professors like that should be kicked to the curb.
  9. If you must publish, publish something useful. How many law review articles on the dialectical implications of title IX in gout victims critical race dichotomy and the dormant commerce clause as evidenced in the social and intra-familial relationships of the indigenous peoples of the Antarctic dichotomacitious theorem as evaluated in a mixed socialist and law and economics scale of measure for a ham sandwich do we really need? I’m not saying that we don’t benefit from scholars pushing the envelope or opening new legal doors, but for god’s sake. Most law review articles are never even read, let alone cited, let alone useful. My own included (A slight bit of irony, as I was writing this, apparently the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found one of my law review articles not only useful, but cited it twice).
  10. Credit for practice. We should encourage full time professors to have “side practices.” This brings the adjunct “real world” experience to the classroom. If their law review article production drops, all the better (see above). Hours of practice should count toward tenure as much, or more, than just another worthless law review article. Take sabbaticals to practice again, not to loaf around writing more dreck.
  11. Overhaul Career Services. Career services at most schools seems to be there to market the most marketable members of the student body to the biggest firms — the exact students and firms who need no help getting together. Create real incentives for career services — tie their income to actual placements just like real headhunters. Give a sliding scale of bonuses for placing lower ranked students. Lets face it, #1 in the class doesn’t need career services’ assistance. If they place him or her, the payoff should be a mere token. However, if you can actually place the anchorman, you’ve done something special.
  12. Dual track education. There are a lot of people who go to law school who have no intention of becoming a lawyer. Fine, they offer a lot to the process as well, but law schools should offer a “Masters Degree in Legal Studies” alongside a Juris Doctor degree. Students can take the MDLS at the end of their third semester and then they can just boogie. If they ever want to come back and do second half later, then they should be able to. This way, the students who are in law school “just because they don’t know what else to do right now,” (and there are a lot of them) will be able to exit early and still have something to show for their effort, but they wont be mucking up the legal system when they are forced to practice law because there is no other profession available to them that will allow them to repay their student loans.
  13. NOBODY admitted straight out of college. Your Bachelor’s degree must be at least one year old before you can commence your studies. This will eliminate a lot of the “soul searchers” and the “my parents told me to go here” students. Not that I mind having those types in class — in fact this kind of student often contributes the most to class. I would like the soul searchers to continue to attend law school. Nevertheless, I want them to be given a “cooling off searching period,” because I don’t want them subjected to three years of high tuition and commitment when they aren’t really enthusiastic about practicing law or getting a legal education. Give them time to find themselves before law school. The “I’m in this for the money” crowd will be cut back too. No wait to attend business school, where you are likely to land a better paying job.

This manifesto is subject to change, and more rules may be applied in the future.

Well, change starts with a desire.  Desire creates action.  Action begets voices.  More voices begets more action...and so on.