Issue #20 of Equipping Our Lawyers eNewsletter
Editor's Introduction: Members of ACLEA at their recent mid-year meeting sent proposed Model Rules on mandatory CLE course credit and distance learning accreditation back to the drafting committee with a mixed bag of comments. See details below.
Law students have been found happy with their educations! Who would have thunk it? But Rick Matasar's not happy with their educations! Nor are many others. More below!
While we're on the subject, what IS law school all about anyway? See new--or at least interestingly restated--views below....And learn why Ari Kaplan argues that "white collar hustling" is one of those essential competencies law students need to be learning.
Follow the Equipping Our Lawyers conversation at #equiplawyers on Twitter.com. Chuck Bingaman, Editor (email@example.com)
ACLEA Members Give Mixed Reviews to Draft MCLE Rules
Members of the Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA) on January 30 gave mixed reviews on two proposed Model MCLE Rules (on Use of Learning Objectives and Accrediting Distance Learning). See www.equippingourlawyers.com/documents/12-5-2011-Model_Rules.pdf for the text of the proposed rules.
Echoing terms of the Summit Recommendations, the Model Rules drafting committee had proposed that, as a condition for gaining mandatory CLE course accreditation, sponsors should have to state specific learning objectives and their intended means of achieving the objectives. While not denying the value of learning objectives, some CLE provider ACLEA members, particularly those from smaller programs, argued that this rule would impose an unnecessary and burdensome new hurdle for them (and a potent new ground for regulators to deny CLE credit).
The proposed Model Rule on accrediting distance learning sought to provide a single, simple definition of distance learning for mandatory CLE purposes to solve the current definitional problems arising from many formats and changing technologies. And it made optional the requirements that distance learning attendance be verifiable and that participants be able to ask questions. A significant number of ACLEA members argued that making those elements optional was an unjustifiable lowering of the bar for granting credit.
At the same time, CLEreg (the association of MCLE regulators) also critiqued the proposed Rules. The drafting committee will reconsider the rules in light of the ACLEA and CLEreg members' comments.
Ed. Note: Basing educational planning on stated learning objectives is hardly a radical notion. Professional educators have been preaching learning objectives forever, although not all CLE sponsors have been consistent, let alone religious, in using them. And some harried CLE administrators feel that they automatically incorporate learning objectives in their planning, stated or not. Further some CLE administrators feel burdened by MCLE regulators and regulations that they consider arbitrary and/or arbitrarily enforced. This commentator feels their pain but nevertheless considers the results of stated learning objectives so powerful in strengthening the effectiveness of teaching/learning that the potential added work involved would justify any additional effort. What do you think? Other opinions to be published in future issues.
Although I welcome the simplified and flexible definition for distance learning, not requiring attendance verification and the opportunity to ask questions would strip any distance learning format of key standards of educational seriousness and effectiveness. Although many states do not have these requirements, I was surprised that the drafting committee would make such a recommendation. CCB
New Study Finds Students Happy with Their Legal Educations
Forget its sometimes tangential relevance to needed practice skills. Forget the discouraging job market and the mountains of personal debt! A new study by NALP and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching suggests that the majority of law students are quite satisfied with their legal educations. See http://is.gd/IR1AZQ.
Released in January and based on responses from more than 33,000 law students at 95 U.S. and Canadian law schools, 83 percent responded that their law school experience was either "good" or "excellent," and 80 percent said they would attend law school again if they could start over.
Ed. Note: There must be more to this story! CCB
Outgoing Dean Matasar Urges Fundamental Change in Law School Approaches
"We know there are storm clouds on the horizon," warned Richard Matasar before the AALS convention in early January.
Matasar, who resigned as Dean of New York Law School effective January 1, included poor job prospects for law grads, growing student debt loads and the threat that outside regulators might force changes upon law schools in his forecast.
See http://is.gd/dhYzSJ for the National Law Journal story.
Matasar urged legal educators--and their regulators--to think about five new approaches:
- Diversifying their efforts to find resources and create services beyond the traditional juris doctor program.
- Stratifying the marketplace to enable schools to serve different functions and fill different niches.
- Collaborating between schools to stretch resources by, for example, sharing faculty members.
- Enrolling students who lack B.A. degrees, as legal educators in other countries do.
- Employing new approaches, such as games and computer applications, to help students learn the competencies they need.
Ed. Note: Richard Matasar was an active participant in the Equipping Our Lawyers Critical Issues Summit in 2009. A major theme of his deanships at Chicago's IIT-Chicago Kent School of Law and at NewYork Law School has been the need for schools to relate to the practice of law, to face their structural problems squarely and to seek real, innovative solutions. We hope he continues to focus his passion and his creativity on improving the effectiveness and affordability of American legal educations. CCB
And Maybe The Law Schools are Listening... At Least Some of Them
Karen Sloan in the January 16 National Law Journal reported that more than 500 law professors and administrators packed into a daylong session at the AALS convention to discuss curriculum innovations, to seek the correct balance between traditional and practice-oriented courses, and to debate which skills to teach in light of the broad range of careers their graduates pursue.
Urging innovative reforms was session keynoter Paul Lippe, CEO of Legal Onramp, a collaboration system for in-house counsel and invited outside lawyers and third-party service providers participating from over 40 countries, and a rapidly growing collection of content and technology resources. See www.legalonramp.com.
Susan Carle, an American University Washington College of Law professor who helped plan the session, said the massive turnout showed that legal academics understand that shifts in the profession require reform within the academy. "There really is a lot of interesting work people are doing in law schools that relates to thinking about how legal scholarship should develop in response to this crisis."
"The state of the profession has not traditionally been a focus of law professors," conceded George Washington University Law School professor Thomas Morgan, author of The Vanishing American Lawyer (Oxford University Press, 2009; ISBN13:9780199737734).
"That remained true until about one year ago, when more people within the academy started taking note of the rumblings within the profession...We need to try and bridge what is a mutual set of problems," he added. See full story at http://is.gd/2F7jZK.
Ed. Note: Tom Morgan is one of the most respected of American legal scholars, and his book is a must read for everyone in the profession. CCB
Reinventing Professional Services: Kaplan Argues for Serious Change for 21st Century Success
New York legal consultant Ari Kaplan argues that 21st century lawyers, because of the recession, technology developments, and societal change, must update their approaches to be successful.
In Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace (John Wiley &Sons, 2011) Kaplan tells lawyers how to hustle for business in today's changing legal marketplace. It's a book of today's recipes for today's types of business development and business relationships using today's latest tools. And it contains many vivid examples. Check it out!
Ed. Note: Adding a dose of Kaplanesque technique and entrepreneurial attitude would liven up any law school curriculum, young lawyer transition education and CLE program. The Summit Recommendations argue for making legal education more closely related to real world practice needs. Approaching it with the best of early 21st century tools may be a good place to start. CCB