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Review: The Master’s Tools: Deconstructing the Socratic…

Review: The Master’s Tools: Deconstructing the Socratic…

By Rory Bahadur, Washburn University School of Law

The Master’s Tools: Deconstructing the Socratic Method and its Disparate Impact on Women Through the Prism Of The Equal Protection Doctrine by Tanisha Makeba Bailey

This article traces the history of women as law students and empirically documents the tangible disparate impacts of Socratic Pedagogy on female law students. The second half of the article, which is not discussed in this review, is a fascinating discussion about how these disparate impacts may be significant enough to warrant an Equal Protection challenge.

The article initially describes the history of women in legal education and summarizes the exclusionary attitude law schools had toward women by quoting Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bradley as follows:

[T]he civil law, as well as nature herself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. Man is, or should be, woman’s protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life . . . . The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother

Next the article does something important and rare; it defines the Socratic Method. It’s modern incarnation is described as, “a masochistic interplay of domineering, and at times evasive, professors attempting to inform humiliated, and silenced students.” The author describes this method as both humiliating and debilitating, concluding that the gravity of the effect on female law students is simply ignored. She concludes, “the Socratic Method impairs the ability of women law students to perform and excel academically, leading to a crippling of their long-term performance in terms of grade-based opportunities.”

She uses interviews, testimony, and data to quantify the effects of Socratic teaching on female law students. She groups the effects into two broad categories: silencing and grade disparity. Components of the silencing category are actual silencing of law students who are not comfortable interacting in a Socratic class, the oppressive atmosphere of the Socratic classroom and the resulting psychological debilitation it causes.

Grade disparity is documented by comparing prelaw school academic success and rank of entering male and female students with the ranks after the first year of law school. The data clearly indicates that something favors the increased class rank of the male students after the first year of law school. Her conclusion is summarized as follows; “The fact that women consistently academically outrank men prior to law school admission, and then during law school their grades become grossly disproportionate, reflects the egregious effects of the Socratic Method.”

While the documentation of these effects is something we all need to take seriously if we are to provide the same opportunities for success for all our law students regardless of gender, another crucial fact is the conclusion the author reaches when she describes the recommended pedagogy for minimizing the disparate impact on female law students. The author suggests in part, a pedagogy based on the “ethic of care, which includes “using alternative methods of teaching, giving more exercises, practice examinations, and other feedback . . . .”

Even if you are a Socratic diehard, the assumption is that student learning is something every law professor cares deeply about. If that assumption holds true, then we cannot dismiss the almost normative identity of this author’s recommendations and those of the Carnegie and Best Practices Reports on legal education.


Review: The Inseparability of Professionalism and Personal Satisfaction…

Review: The Inseparability of Professionalism and Personal Satisfaction…

By Jeremiah A. Ho, University of Massachusetts School of Law

Lawrence S. Krieger, The Inseparability of Professionalism and Personal Satisfaction: Perspectives on Values, Integrity, and Happiness, 11 Clinical L. Rev. 425 (2005).

Through his writings and teachings, Professor Lawrence Krieger has devoted a notable—dare I say, even honorable—body of work on the humanistic side of lawyering.  Thus, even though his article, The Inseparability of Professionalism and Personal Satisfaction: Perspectives on Values, Integrity, and Happiness, was published more than a decade ago, it still reads with relevance today, especially in light of the many worries that law teachers have expressed regarding the professionalism issues with current law students.  His article here first discusses reasons why law schools have been teaching a limited sense of professionalism—restricted to only “telling law students and lawyers that they should act in certain ways” for either vaguely described “noble reasons” or singly to avoid bar discipline.  Then it illustrates how to redirect that teaching to a more noble and personally fulfilling sense of professionalism.  Such training should be more specific, relevant, and profound, according to Krieger’s article.  It ought to be tied to professional satisfaction, happiness, and a deep set of inherently principled values.  Through humanistic and empirical science, he shows why this connection is true and how to instill a deeper, more personally satisfying sense of professionalism in our students.

To connect professionalism to career and life satisfaction, Krieger begins from a place of dissatisfaction, describing the empirical evidence amongst lawyers that reveal their low career satisfaction and high concerns for mental health issues.  “Those values and motivations that promote or attend professionalism have been empirically shown to correlate with well-being and life satisfaction, while those that undermine or discourage professionalism empirically correlate with distress and dissatisfaction,” Krieger writes.  He also relies on the Maslow hierarchy of human needs that explains people’s drives for growth and satisfaction:  people pursuing higher needs, such as self-actualization and esteem, tend to experience growth motivation and psychological maturity; those pursuing lower needs, such as survival, security, competence, belonging, and respect from others, experience more deficiency motivation accompanied by minimal life satisfaction.  All of these correlations are also supported by modern psychological research, which Krieger examines.  Between intrinsic values of purpose and personal happiness and external motivators such as money or status, modern psychological research builds on Maslow to show that “when intrinsic values and motivation dominate a person’s choices she tends to experience satisfaction and well-being, whereas when extrinsic values and motivation are most important to her she will experience angst and distress.”  Those values that promote happiness are likely to lead to professional behavior; while the vice versa seems to be true.  Furthermore, Krieger finds that the intrinsic value of integrity is tied to professionalism and satisfaction.

Because law school and the legal profession places heavy emphasis of external rewards, law students can be led astray from professionalism and career happiness by their drive to seek out such extrinsic motivators.  In this way, Krieger offers a teaching exercise to instill in students an awareness of the correlation between intrinsic values and professionalism.  He makes his students actively seek out intrinsic values by having them write out hypothetical eulogies of themselves followed by lessons on an idealized professionalism that seeks out noble behavior, by introducing research on the dismal mental and emotional well-being of attorneys, as well as studies on the typical goals and behaviors of happy and healthy individuals.  After such lessons, Krieger asks his students to revisit that eulogy to identify intrinsic values that students have written about in regards to themselves.  Then students must match up those identified values with values that promote professionalism.

As Krieger notes, “[t]he results of this exercise are illuminating, because they show students and lawyers the kinds of things that matter most deeply to them.”  In running this exercise, Krieger has observed that his students tend to express intrinsic values and virtues in their eulogies rather than external ones.  Ultimately, this exercise helps his students differentiate the intrinsic values that lead to personal fulfillment and professionalism from values that would distort their sense of professionalism and career identity and possibly hinder personal fulfillment.  It’s an intriguing exercise, odd in the sense of what’s required is writing one’s own eulogy, but goal-oriented in nature and form, where the law teacher shapes students’ conception of professionalism by getting them to actively acknowledge on their own the types of intrinsic values that professionalism embodies and what values they ought to seek.


Review: Grit

Review: Grit

Reviewed By Prof. Emily Grant, Washburn University School of Law

Angela Duckworth, Grit (2016)

Dr. Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her book Grit came out last year, and it is spectacular.

The concept of grit includes a combination of passion and perseverance.  Gritty people have both determination and direction. The notion of grit is correlated with ideas of industriousness, creativity, hope, and conscientiousness.  And that character trait, Dr. Duckworth argues, is responsible for high levels of achievement, even more so than sheer talent, ability, or intellect.  To be clear, Dr. Duckworth doesn’t ignore the existence and importance of talent, but she asserts that “a focus on talent distracts us from something that is at least as important, and that is effort.”

In the first part of the book, Dr. Duckworth makes the case that grit matters.  She discusses various research and psychological studies, and she shares interviews with people from all walks of life including West Point cadets and professional athletes and school teachers and business moguls.  She also includes a ten-question self-assessment to measure how gritty you are (see her website: to measure how gritty you are.  Dr. Duckworth then discusses how to grow your own grit, i.e., how to develop and nurture passion and perseverance in yourself.

But it’s the last part of the book that was most intriguing to me as an educator (and frankly, as a parent)—how to help cultivate grit in other people.  She talks about parenting for grit and about how to create a culture of grit.  It is this portion of the book that I will be rereading before the start of every semester to contemplate how I can encourage passion and perseverance in my students.

In addition to being substantively fascinating, the book was wonderful to read.  It was a powerful book for me as a person, as a parent, and as a professor in charge of encouraging high levels of achievement in my students.  This is the kind of book I will give as a gift for every graduation to which I am invited.  I will likely make my own son read it when he finishes high school and starts out on whatever path is next.  I would like every incoming law student to read it.  You most definitely should as well.

If you’d like a taste of Dr. Duckworth’s research and theory, you can listen to her six-minute TED talk on the topic:

Or a 45-minute Freakonomics podcast:

Review:  Lawyers at Work: A Study of the Reading…

Review: Lawyers at Work: A Study of the Reading…

Reviewed by Sandra Simpson, Gonzaga University School of Law

Article: “Lawyers at Work: A Study of the Reading, Writing, and Communication Practices of Legal Professionals”[1]
By Ann Sinsheimer and David Herring Professors of Legal Writing at University of Pittsburg School of Law.

This article reports on the results of an ethnographic study of associate attorneys in the workplace, specifically studying what they actually do in terms of reading, writing, and communicating.  Not surprisingly, the study found that associate attorneys spend most of their time reading, writing, and communicating.  The fascinating part of this study is the finding that associates are not reading many judicial opinions, writing many formal memos, or communicating in a courtroom setting.

The study found that lawyering for junior associates was fundamentally about reading: both digitally and in print.  They read primary authority, but most frequently, they read broad-based secondary authorities and non-legal texts.  These associates read often in print and bounced between free on-line sources and paid on-line sources, being very conscious of the high price of the paid on-line resources.  Reading closely and carefully was important to the associates but many times they skimmed and scanned documents in an effort to efficiently ferret out the importance of the document.  Associates had to quickly hone their ability to read with a purpose: to solve a problem.

The study also found that associates did write: a process which began with reading and rereading the information they had gathered to substantiate their writing.  Often working from templates, associates spent a good amount of time editing their writing before sending their work to their supervisor.  As email represents a large portion of their writing, much effort was spent honing their writing, focusing on word choice, tone, and content.

Not surprisingly, the environments where these lawyers worked were stressful, even the most congenial of the workplaces were stressful.  Although derived from numerous sources, the most common sources of stresses were being pressed for time and needing to juggle multiple tasks at one time.  Working with constant interruptions also led to high levels of stress.  Of note, the authors found that “[t]he ability of the attorneys to understand their role influenced their sense of well-being as well as their capacity to successfully perform their reading and writing tasks.”

The article goes on to discuss other interpersonal skills exercised and needed to help associates be successful, namely teamwork (in a vertical structure with a senior partner), organization, and time management.  Prioritizing and communication as a team rose to the top as critical skills.

Wrapping up the article, the authors suggest law schools look at helping students read for the purpose of problem solving.  As for writing, the authors suggest law schools, across their curriculum, have students create emails for various purposes.  Further, teaching students to use and change templates or forms is an invaluable skill. Lastly, law schools should create opportunities for law students to practice the interpersonal and communication skills necessary to navigate the “sort of high pressure and hierarchical workplaces” observed in the study.  The article gives several suggestions on exercises to use.

[1] The article can be found at


Review: “All of the Above: Computerized Exam Scoring of Multiple Choice Items Helps To: (A) …”

Review: “All of the Above: Computerized Exam Scoring of Multiple Choice Items Helps To: (A) …”

By Heidi Holland, Gonzaga University Law school

Article: “All of the Above: Computerized Exam Scoring of Multiple Choice Items Helps To: (A) Show How Exam Items Worked Technically, (B) Maximize Exam Fairness, (C) Justly Assign Letter Grades, and (D) Provide Feedback on Student Learning” by Lynn M. Daggett, 57 J. Legal Educ. 391 (Sept. 2007).

All of us are working to integrate formative assessment pursuant to the mandates of ABA Standard 314, and multiple choice exams are one way to do it. However, few law teachers have training in how to use multiple-choice questions effectively.  While it is certainly not a recent article, Professor Lynn Daggett’s article is instructional and encouraging to both the novice and experienced teacher.  In her article “All of the Above: Computerized Exam Scoring of Multiple Choice Items Helps To: (A) Show How Exam Items Worked Technically, (B) Maximize Exam Fairness, (C) Justly Assign Letter Grades, and (D) Provide Feedback on Student Learning,” Professor Daggett introduces her readers to the strengths and limitations of multiple choice questions, explains what they can be used to measure, shows how data can be used to guide the assignment of letter grades, and provides specific examples of the concepts in use.

Professor Daggett begins by explaining “core psychometric concepts” including validity (construct, predictive, and content) and reliability.[1]  She also sets the framework for assessment: that it can be criterion-referenced or norm-referenced. Criterion-referenced tests measure whether a student can demonstrate mastery, whether it be of a skill or a concept.  A norm-referenced evaluation, on the other hand, compares a student’s performance against her peers.[2]

Effective instruction and assessment both require intentionality on the part of the instructor, and “law teachers have to decide what the purpose(s) of the [test/question] is, including whether the [test/question] is designed to separate out levels of learning within a class (norm-referenced evaluation), or to measure whether students have mastered specific concepts or skills (criterion-reverenced evaluation).”[3] With the instructor’s goal identified, Professor Daggett then explains how computerized scoring can be used as an assessment tool.

With the mean, median, mode, standard deviations and z-scores in mind, Professor Daggett offers instructors methods of assigning letter grades.  Nonetheless, data does not substitute for professional judgment, and Professor Daggett explains how she uses the data to guide her discretion always keeping in mind that we “perform somewhat of a gatekeeper function in assigning low letter grades, particularly in first year classes. . . . [A] grade of D+ or D from [her] means the student has demonstrated barely adequate learning of course concepts and skills and more generally should not continue in law school unless grades in other courses reflect considerably more mastery.”[4]

As previously noted, Professor Daggett’s article is not just informative; it is instructional. She explains how to decipher and use item analysis, which is part of a standard computerized scoring report from a multiple-choice exam. The article details how to judge the efficacy of test questions, provides an example of the specific information shared with students after an exam, and encourages all of us to provide feedback to students about concepts they have not yet mastered. With thorough explanations and three appendices, you should come away with a better understanding of how to use multiple-choice questions fairly to assess student learning.


[1] Pg. 394

[2] Pg. 399

[3] Pg. 401

[4] Pg. 401


Empirical Evidence that Formative Assessments Improve Final Exams”

Empirical Evidence that Formative Assessments Improve Final Exams”

By Barbara Lentz, Wake Forest University Law school

Article: “Empirical Evidence that Formative Assessments Improve Final Exams” by Carol Springer Sargent and Andrea A. Curcio, 61 J. Legal Educ. 379 (Feb. 2012).

Are you integrating formative assessment in your courses to satisfy ABA Standard 314, but wondering whether your time to develop, implement and evaluate student work will improve students’ learning?  In the article “Empirical Evidence that Formative Assessments Improve Final Exams,” Professors Carol Springer Sargent and Andrea A Curcio report that shifting away from a single summative assessment to a combination of formative assessments over the term coupled with a final cumulative exam provides a measurable performance improvement to 70% of the law students in the course. The authors describe their study, review types of and benefits from formative assessments, list practices to improve effectiveness of feedback, and seek to explain why the term-long formative feedback boosted performance only for students in the top 70% of LSAT score or undergraduate GPA (UGPA) cohort regardless of first year law school grades.

Their study was based on data collected in two subsequent Autumn terms of a large, doctrinal Evidence course taught by the same experienced professor. The control section was taught using a problem method with case analysis and students were assessed solely by a cumulative final exam that comprised the full course grade. In the following year, the intervention section was taught using the same problem method with case analysis, but also received a series of formative assessments: five ungraded quizzes, a graded midterm, model answers, grading rubrics, and a self-reflective exercise. The final exam in the intervention section comprised 83% of the course grade (allocated so that the final course grade would correspond primarily to the final summative assessment). The authors compared the final exam scores of students on eleven common final exam questions. The variance in common question scores, 3.02466 points out of 50 points, is about a half a letter grade (6.048 percent). Id. at 391. The effect for the top 70% of the intervention class, however, was 4.595 points out of 50, or almost a full letter grade (9.19 percent). Id.

Before discussing the implications of their results, the authors reviewed best practices for implementing formative assessments to improve learning. Formative assessments improve learning by helping students identify misconceptions and knowledge gaps and by motivating or refocusing studying. In their view, the most effective formative feedback explains to students why an answer is correct instead of merely showing the correct answer. According to the authors, other strategies to make feedback more effective are providing suggestions to improve performance, delivering feedback close in time to the assessment. Id. at 381-82.

The professors and students valued types of formative assessment differently. The authors posit that ungraded feedback may be more helpful in improving learning because it focuses the student on suggestions for improvement rather than solely upon the grades. Id. at 382.  However, student evaluations showed that while many students found all the formative materials to be helpful, the graded midterm was valued more highly. Students commented that model answers, grading rubrics, and professor comments were the most helpful feedback, but peer edits and self-reflections provided the least useful feedback. Indeed, more than one-third of students surveyed found the self-reflective exercises unhelpful. Id. at 392.

Sargent and Curcio write that the demonstrated benefit from formative assessment disproportionately accrued to the top 70% of students (arranged by LSAT or UGPA). Students in the intervention section with below median first-year law school grades did show improved performance, compared to the control group, but only if those students were in the top two-thirds of the class on UGPA or LSAT scores. Id. at 400.  By correlating LSAT and UGPA with performance on the final exam, this study showed the bottom 30% of students by LSAT or UGPA (regardless of first year grades) either did not or could not use the information from formative assessments to monitor and improve the quality of their work as measured by performance on the final exam. Similarly, results from a similar prior study (comparing civil procedure courses taught by different instructors in the same term), showed that practice essays only helped improve final exam performance of students with above median LSAT scores and UGPAs.

The authors presented potential explanations for the disproportionate allocation of benefit from formative assessment. First, it is possible that not all students are able to use feedback to improve. Students’ ability to calibrate what they know and don’t know is a metacognitive skill. Id. at 395-96. There may be a difference in students’ metacognitive abilities. If the top 70% of students possessed stronger metacognitive skills, they would be better able to process and apply information gleaned from formative assessment to improve their learning and subsequent performance on final exams. Id. at 384. The top 70% cohort may also have higher confidence in their abilities to effectively use feedback, which improves their abilities to better self-monitor and calibrate their comprehension. Id. at 400. Additionally, it is possible that students in the top 70% of the LSAT or UGPA cohort are more motivated by grades. Id. at 396.

While the article provides evidence that formative assessment improves performance, the authors disclose are three caveats: First, they are not able to identify which types of formative assessment led to higher exam scores in the intervention section. While students did not report the self-reflective exercises to be helpful, student perceptions “are not a direct measure of the actual helpfulness of the materials.” Id. at 395. Second, it is possible that students perform better when they know their performance being measured, (the Hawthorne effect). Id. at 398. Finally, the authors questioned whether the formative assessments, which they described as practice materials, might inadvertently encourage performance-oriented goals rather than encouraging deeper mastery learning. “In other words, do [formative] practice materials support those whose main goal is to get higher course grades rather than assisting those who wish to truly comprehend and master the content?” Id. at 399.

The authors did not believe that the shift to formative assessment unreasonably burdened faculty, particularly when faculty time over the entire term was considered. “While drafting the questions, model answers, rubrics, and self-reflective exercises initially takes a few hours, those materials do not need updating each term. Grading a short midterm also takes a few hours, but may result in faster final exam grading due to better quality responses. Alternately, giving a midterm may justify a shorter final exam, thereby reducing time spent grading final exams.” Id. at 400. Because formative feedback improves performance by explaining why an answer is incorrect, it may be possible to produce the same learning effect without administering and individually grading a mid-term, further minimizing instructor effort. The authors suggest undertaking a future study to discern whether providing a model answer to an ungraded midterm might provide a learning effect similar to individually graded midterms.

Finally, they observed that completing formative exercises and providing feedback reduced the amount of traditional instruction time relative to the control section. Thus, feedback must be more helpful in improving learning than the reduction in class time to cover material. Id. at 398. However, the substantial improvement shown by the intervention group seems to show that reducing time for traditional instruction in favor of formative assessment may improve student learning at least as measured by final exam scores for the majority of students.


Do We Need Subject Matter-Specific Pedagogies?

Do We Need Subject Matter-Specific Pedagogies?

By Rory D. Bahadur, Washburn University School of Law

In her recent Article Do We Need Subject Matter-Specific Pedagogies?, 65 J. Legal Educ. 839 (2016), Professor Kris Franklin invites us to consider the unique roles that the various foundational courses may play in the law school curriculum.

The Article was published as part of an AALS symposium dedicated to the teaching of civil procedure, and asks, essentially, what value there might be at considering legal pedagogy in the context of individual academic disciplines. Or as Franklin puts it: “Is good teaching simply good teaching wherever it is done, or is there something different about how we teach, or ought to, within each academic discipline?”

Using examples drawn both from the other pieces in the symposium itself and an earlier collection of essays on the teaching of civil procedure, Franklin carefully considers what a law professor new to the subject might glean from her colleagues’ writing.  She concludes that at the very least, studying the existing pieces on teaching civ. pro. would offer valuable tips on how to help students understand especially challenging subject matter.  More broadly, she observes reading other scholars’ work on civil procedure pedagogy could refine her sense of how to use the subject to teach some of the critical skills that lawyers, and law students, must begin to master. This inquiry, Franklin tells us, would be valuable in and of itself, because it would make her (and any reader) a better teacher of the subject.

But Franklin goes on to note that reading the other articles would do more than just offer technical advice about teaching this particular exacting course: It would show her how “a deep comprehension of civil procedure distinctly contributes to an understanding of what law is, or what it means to be a lawyer.”

Perhaps it is Franklin’s suggestion that most law Professors when asked what good pedagogy is, will respond in very broad brush, general terms, which lays the foundation for the article’s most salient point.  At bottom Franklin suggests we examine each of the foundational courses and specifically identify which subset of the “good pedagogy” principles each class is best suited for rather than trying to make each class employ all the pedagogical tools we typically identify as good pedagogy.

She begin the process of identifying which of the foundational courses are the best pedagogical vehicles for specific aspects of what we all tend to agree law students need to learn or what good pedagogy entails.  For example she suggests:

  • Criminal law introduces students to the importance and function of statutes (at least, it does so more than other first-year courses tend to). Most criminal courses heavily reference either the Model Penal Code or the state or federal penal law.Perhaps they even study and compare more than one of these sources. Yes, there are codes relied on in other introductory courses, but criminal law courses teach students that they must always read carefully the specific language of the statutes to determine what offenses might legitimately be charged for a given set of facts.
  • Contracts law is particularly intricate. It could be especially important in helping to hone students’ analytical precision. Furthermore, its problems have to be approached in an unusually constant order: asking first whether a legally binding agreement was formed (mutual assent plus consideration); second, whether it was breached; assuming it was, whether there are any defenses to that breach; then finally, what if any damages the parties to the agreement may claim and receive. This remains the case despite the fact that there is wide variation in the order in which these basic steps are covered in contracts courses. If students grasp this “flow chart-ish” nature of analyzing contracts problems, they are often well on their way toward understanding contract law itself, and they have reinforced an organizational skill that may be helpful in other areas as well.
  • Constitutional law is probably the only foundational law course, maybe the only class in law school altogether, in which each and every case matters for its own sake. Consequently, constitutional law as a discipline requires analogical reasoning to important cases in a way that few other introductory law courses do. Beginning law students often do not use cases well, in part because they find it especially difficult to fathom why they are reading particular cases. Students frequently cannot distinguish those cases they are reading as simply being among any number of examples that might have been selected to illustrate how a particular legal rule operates, as opposed to those leading cases that are assigned because they introduce or solidify the doctrine. In contrast to most other required introductory courses, allcases in a constitutional law casebook are likely leading ones, while this is true of perhaps very few of them in a property casebook. Students of law should therefore learn and use those cases in different ways. A teacher in constitutional law may help students understand why the assigned cases have unique importance in this course, which could in turn help law students discern the differences between leading cases and those offered merely as examples. If so, students could learn how to use cases in a more sophisticated way in all of their classes.
  • Evidence problems seem to lend themselves to meticulous specificity in the application of a set of rules that becomes thorny when argued in given situations. Some evidence professors suggest that multiple-choice testing is especially useful in that subject because of the way rules of evidence are used in the courtroom–as points for rapid and discrete debate, often handled spontaneously and settled definitively. Regardless of assessment method, it may be true that evidence courses offer exceptional opportunities for their students to hone pointed argumentation skills within rigorous application of legal rules.

She suggests that grasping this latter point would go a long way toward developing a broader theory of how each of the standard required courses in the law school curriculum contributes to the “gorgeous mosaic” of learning law itself. She invites us to consider how every one of our courses fits into that big-picture view of the legal curriculum, so that we can consciously teach each course to more effectively educate tomorrow’s lawyers.  In addition to all of the above the article challenges us to examine the courses we teach and to actually quantify what good teaching entails beyond a simple and shallow reiteration of buzz phrases.



Review: The Integrated Law School Curriculum

Review: The Integrated Law School Curriculum

By Andrea Boyack, Washburn University School of Law

Adam Lamparello, The Integrated Law School Curriculum, 8 Elon Law Review 407 (2016) [Read fulltext at Elon Law Review website (664 KB PDF)]

Professor Lamparello, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning at the newly inaugurated Indiana Tech Law School, lays out the case for a law school model integrating doctrinal, practical, and clinical legal education and then explains his school’s innovative plan to achieve that vision. By so doing, he and his institution take one brave step to follow the ABA’s advice for legal academia, to evolve through experimentation (“take thoughtful risks” – see Report and Recommendations of ABA’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education (304 KB PDF).

The justifications cited by Lamparello for an integrated law school curriculum are as familiar as they are compelling. He echoes the call for vertical integration among courses as a way to better prepare students for legal practice, stating that “law schools must re-think the traditional ‘silo’ model of legal education, in which the three pillars of legal education – doctrinal, skills, and clinical courses – are nestled into separate parts of the curriculum, as if one has no relation to the other.” He notes that learning is best done in context, that assessments should be coupled with opportunities for students to incorporate feedback and revise assignments, and stresses the broad and important role for legal writing instruction. He explains the meaning and importance of seven types of competency-based learning outcomes.

But in addition to joining the chorus calling for better curricular integration, student assessment, and faculty collaboration, Lamparello also sings an interesting solo detailing his vision for precisely how this integration might be designed. Lamparello advocates for a quantum leap – rather than incremental – type of curricular change, noting that “a fully integrated, competency-based, and experiential program of legal education requires structural and sequential changes to the curriculum.” His vision involves an unusually high level of collaboration among faculty members so that classes all operate in support of and in the context of one organizing and comprehensive, multi-issue hypothetical that law students will be “litigating” throughout their three years of law school. This cross-curricular hypothetical sets up the framework for students to immediately start integrating various doctrinal areas of the law.

The sample hypothetical included in Lamparello’s article raises a surprising number of diverse issues, ranging from divorce and domestic violence to fraud, fine print, and consumer financial protection to due process rights and judicial ethics to negligence, causation and manslaughter. It also sets up a framework for students to learn lawyering skills in a chronological way (in the order in which they would be used in practice). For example, first semester students would perform a client interview, draft a retention agreement, research case law on first-year topics, and draft a predictive memorandum and then a complaint. Second-semester students would engage in the next steps of simulated litigation practice, including drafting motions, answers, and discovery requests. Third semester students would draft an appellate brief. The cross-curricular hypothetical does not substitute for doctrinal classes, but rather sets up a simulated laboratory for principals, presumably learned in a more traditional Socratic exchange, to be applied and honed. Each first-year doctrinally focused course would be carefully organized to coincide with and support the cross-curricular hypothetical. For example, criminal law would cover mens rea and actus reus to prepare the students to draft interview questions for the hypothetical client charged with manslaughter. Contract formation principals would support student drafting of a retention agreement. And civil procedure study of pleading requirements and jurisdiction would immediately be put into context through drafting the jurisdictional and fact sections of a complaint.

In addition to having all courses link together through the core hypothetical fact scenario, Lamparello’s vision also includes a six-semester legal writing program and a five-semester clinical program that would support the school’s overarching student learning objectives. The described legal writing program would provide students with specific instruction and individual feedback on their written work products in connection with the cross-curricular hypothetical, and its six-semester structure allows deliberate instruction not only with respect to basic persuasive writing and legal document drafting, but with respect to transactional drafting, the art of editing and re-writing, and methods of narrative storytelling. The five semesters of “live-client clinic” experiences are designed to complete the comprehensive bridge into practice, giving law students client experiences as early as their second semester, building up from screening interviews to litigation teams, to small-scale litigation representation, to “capstone course” primary client representation of clients “on complex matters at the trial and appellate level.”

Lamparello’s vision is undoubtedly ambitious, both in terms of how carefully tailored the three-year plan and each semester must be, but also in terms of how intensively faculty must collaborate to achieve success within the plan. Excruciatingly detailed preparation and collaboration would be required to successfully implement the program, from coordinating specific dates and content for topic coverage in each course and coordinating assignments among various faculty members. And this planning and implementation of the integration plan is just on the front end of the three-year program. Faculty must also continually coordinate and devote significant time and resources to provide students with the high level of individualized feedback and instruction that Lamparello envisions.

It may be that Lamparello’s truly integrated three-year plan for law school learning is unattainable, at least in an imperfect world with limited resources and instructional competencies. But his shoot-for-the stars aspirations can at least shake things up in the legal academy and inspire others to think of ways – large and small – to achieve the curricular design improvements that nearly all pedagogical scholars are calling for: integration of doctrines, skills, and practice; breaking down walls between topical silos; and building bridges from legal study to the actual practice of law.

Review: Dawn of the Discipline-Based Law Faculty

Review: Dawn of the Discipline-Based Law Faculty

By Barbara Lentz, Wake Forest University School of Law

Lynn M. LoPucki, Dawn of the Discipline-Based Law Faculty, 65 Journal of Legal Education506 (2016) [Read fulltext at Journal of Legal Education website]

For this month, two articles are reviewed to consider the implications of a study describing current hiring practices of top-ranked law schools in tandem with a classic description of the caste system in the legal academy. Can we reconcile the predicted transformation of the legal academy with the demands of the ABA, bar and students to prepare practice ready lawyers?

First, a review of the study on hiring of JD-PhD candidates for entry-level law faculty positions at top 26 (footnote 1) ranked law schools presented by Lynn M. LoPucki in “Dawn of the Discipline-Based Law Faculty,” 65 Journal of Legal Education 506 (2016). Professor LoPucki studied entry-level, tenure-track hiring at the top 26 ranked law schools for the 2011-15 period and found that 67% of these hires held JD-PhD degrees. For the same period across the legal academy, he reports that 21% of entry-level tenure-track hires by American law schools held both JD and PhD credentials.

Contrary to conventional wisdom that JD-PhD candidates would spend more time preparing for their teaching careers than JD-only candidates, LoPucki reports that the JD-PhD hires spent half a year less than JD-only hires preparing for their careers in law teaching. (Emphasis in original). While PhD credentialed hires do have training in producing scholarship (and many have published prior to hiring), one-third of 2011-15 hires had no legal experience (up from about one-fifth in a prior, 2010 study).

“The PhD is now a credential acquired in lieu of legal experience,” reports LoPucki. JD-PhD hires are both less likely to have legal experience (training in clerkships and law firms) and likely to have less of it – only 43% of the JD-PhDs had practiced law, and averaged only 0.9 years of legal experience compared to 86% of JD-only hires with an average of 3.6 years legal experience. At higher ranked schools, LoPucki found a negative correlation between length of time preparing for a legal teaching career and school ranking. Even for JD-only hires, he writes, “the top twenty-six schools do not prefer candidates with more legal experience.”

Professor LoPucki observes that the transformation of law faculty to discipline-based (rather than JD-only) has accelerated sharply over the past few years, and predicts that a transition to hiring JD-PhDs almost exclusively “may already be past the point of no return.” He writes that this transformation “is occurring without meaningful debate” over the merits of hiring JD-PhDs with little (or no) legal experience at the same time that law schools are being challenged to produce practice-ready graduates. He concludes by opining that the shift to JD-PhD hiring will “reduce the [law] schools’ capacity to prepare students to practice law.”(2)

Professor LoPucki confined his study to tenure-track hires, the top tier in the law school caste system described by Kent Syverud more than a decade ago. To engage in meaningful debate over the shift to JD-PhD hiring and its potential impact on law schools’ ability to prepare practice ready graduates, consider re-reading the classic essay written in 2001 by Kent Syverud, now Chancellor and President of Syracuse University: “The Caste System and Best Practices in Legal Education,” 1 Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors 12 (2002) (164 KB PDF).

President Syverud listed best practices for teaching law and described how the adoption of best practices in legal education was retarded by law schools’ “unique caste system” which categorized both people and teaching methods in ways harmful to the outcomes of legal education: “Strong caste lines discourage dissemination of best practices where, as in legal education, it is lower castes that have been more responsive and innovative in applying learning theory inside and outside the classroom.”(3)

Syverud distilled substantive best practices into three basic requirements: 1. the law teacher to know individual students well enough to reveal and correct individual misconceptions; 2. Law students to acquire deep understanding of the substance of what they study; and 3. a learning community in each class where students could take charge of their own learning through interactions with their teacher and peers. Best practices (drawn from sources including an ILTL symposium) included student-faculty contact in and outside of class; active and cooperative learning; prompt and frequent feedback; clear communication of high standards; and diverse teaching methods to reach all learners with a variety of techniques. Not only were these best practices time consuming, but they also were identified with the lower castes in the law school.

Syverud described seven castes present in most American law schools. The top tier were tenured and tenure track faculty: they are paid the best, have the most security, rarely change what or how they teach; value research but abhor grading and most often teach a large lecture class with a single final exam. Deans and administrators were the second caste: because they talk with judges and the bar more than the tenured faculty, deans tend to be more concerned with teaching methods and bar passage rates. Third are clinical faculty: they emphasize skills and learning by doing, but some are seeking to produce scholarship to look more like the tenured faculty (while others resist efforts of legal writing faculty to improve their status). Fourth, and lower caste, are legal writing faculty: they have lower pay and less respect, greater teaching loads and face caste discrimination. Law Librarians have an unusual status, being led by a high caste tenured faculty member and providing service to the tenured faculty: this class also has the best awareness of technology and its implications for best practices in legal education. The lowest teaching tier are adjunct faculty, which Syverud described as “temporary foreign visitors” from rich and civilized countries who may also be more likely to adapt what and how they teach in order to meet the changing needs of the legal profession they are immersed in every day.(4)

Because the lower caste legal writing faculty were more likely to interact with students, give weekly assignments and team exercises and provide frequent formative feedback, upper castes were unlikely to adopt those best practices (and others) for fear of being viewed as lower caste. Further, most of the teaching effort was delegated to the lower castes, particularly to the people who teach writing. Just as Syverud observed in 2001, at some institutions people, teaching and stereotypes have diverged from his described system, yet “caste still seems awfully powerful and enduring.”

What might LoPucki’s predicted shift in hiring exclusively JD-PhD candidates for tenure-track, top caste faculty with little to no legal experience, combined with the enduring caste system Syverud described which allocates few resources but much teaching work to lower castes mean for law schools challenged to prepare law students for practice? Perhaps that discussion could also be part of the meaningful debate suggested by Professor LoPucki as we consider the implications of staffing in meeting demands on law schools to better prepare students to practice law.

(1) LoPucki explained that he intended to study the top 25 law schools, but in the 2012U.S. News and World Report rankings, there was a 5-way tie for 22nd place, meaning 26 schools were surveyed for the 2011-15 period.
(2) LoPucki also notes that another effect of requiring a costly credential like a PhD may be to reduce racial and gender diversity.
(3) Syverud, at 18.
(4) Syverud described the law school staff as the untouchable caste, and deplored how law students learned to treat staff poorly by modeling the behavior of the upper castes.

Review: Tired of Talking: A Call for Clear Strategies for Legal Education Reform

Review: Tired of Talking: A Call for Clear Strategies for Legal Education Reform

By Rory Bahadur, Washburn University School of Law

Sara Rankin, Tired of Talking: A Call for Clear Strategies for Legal Education Reform: Moving Beyond the Discussion of Good Ideas to the Real Transformation of Law Schools, 10 Seattle Journal for Social Justice 11 (2011) [Read fulltext at Seattle Journal for Social Justice website ]

This thought-provoking article suggests that attempts to reform legal education are ineffective because the magnitude of the inertia perpetuating the normative face of the current legal educational model is severely under estimated. Additionally, current proponents of reform have not developed a strategic plan to reform but rather approach reform hoping that substantive support for reform is self-executing.

Initially the author points out that it is myopic to view legal education reform as merely a change in content. Rather legal education reform, like any other reform, should be viewed as a subversion of established power or a revolution, and she states, “no revolution no matter how valid and compelling its basis can succeed without a tactical plan.”

Next she suggests we analyze the reason for failure of the progressive education movement because many of the techniques and instructional theories touted by contemporary legal education reform (or CLEAR as the author calls it) have their genesis in this movement. The author lists nine theories which the progressive education movement and CLEAR have in common, and while a description of each is beyond the scope of this article it is worth mentioning what they are to illustrate the core of CLEAR: experiential learning, active learning, situated learning, differentiation, service learning, transformative education, collaborative learning and interdisciplinary teaching.

In order for CLEAR to avoid a fate similar to previously unsuccessful educational reforms, Rankin suggests that metacognition strategies must be implemented to transform the substantive strategies above into a coherent reform movement. The three most important steps she suggests reformers focus on are: initially, consider whether reform efforts can form the basis of a feasible movement; next determine the language or terminology that best defines the reform; and, finally articulate an action plan to effectuate the reform.

In order to effectively begin the metacognitive process mentioned above, the author suggests CLEAR advocates need to engage in some rigorous self-assessment, which involves answering the following eight questions:

  1. How much do I and my colleagues really understand about current efforts to reform legal education?
  2. What do I/we know about the arguments for reforming legal education?
  3. What are the bases for these argument?
  4. What specific terms of reform have been or should be embraced by my institution?
  5. Do my colleagues and my administration share a common understanding of these terms? If not, what institutional support exists to facilitate a common understanding?
  6. Is my administration committed to providing ongoing training or education to support innovation?
  7. What specific pedagogical and curricular modifications can I/we make to reflect contemporary knowledge about teaching and learning?
  8. How will I/we measure progress in meeting these reform objectives?

The author suggests that one of the impediments to converting the substantive strategies into a coherent and effective movement or revolution is that most CLEAR advocates after reflecting on these questions could not facilitate a substantive discussion about the transformation of legal education. This coherence and understanding of what CLEAR reformers are actually advocating is the first step on the way to an effective movement. Similarly the author cautions, in a way that is all too reluctantly familiar to many proponents of CLEAR,

Reform rhetoric is distinct from substantive discussion about reform. Substantive discussion is based on data, information, and education; it involves collective and sustained effort; it develops commonly understood goals and strategies; it offers meaningful guidance on implementation and practice; and it provides ongoing assessment and support. Ultimately, substantive discussion spurs action.
Of course, substantive discussion is far more difficult than rhetoric. That is why so many of us opt for rhetoric, settling for “the quick fix and … ad hoc, small-scale, piecemeal innovations.” In the context of education reform, this posture is not a compromise; it is a total surrender. If we continue to pay “more lip service than mind service” to the transformation of legal education, we cannot expect real change.

The article concludes by reiterating the magnitude of the task associated with CLEAR and providing a tangible way to achieve the reforms.

We cannot arm ourselves simply by writing more articles or attending more conferences. We must become more metacognitive about the process of reform. We must organize, define concrete terms, articulate clear strategies, develop and implement plans to validate the impact of these strategies, lobby at the highest levels, and continue to build our constituency until we prevail. The transformation of legal education is an epic battle. We must be prepared to fight–or to lose.

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