Showing posts with label Teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teaching. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I agree with a lot of the points in this post about law reviews.

Here.  Law reviews are good for giving students more experience with good and bad writing (and good and bad analysis).  But law students are still novices and can't be expected to have the same level of understanding of a given field that tenured professors have.  (I seem to recall the wonderful Jack Ayer having written once about the irony of someone who couldn't get a C in a course telling an author that the author didn't understand the subject, but I can't find the quote.)  We really should rethink the law review system.

UPDATE:  Found the quote.  John D. Ayer, Aliens Are Coming! Drain the Pool!, 88 Mich. L. Rev. 1584, 1587 n. 15 (1990) ("If you have never tried it, imagine what it is like to encounter the mixture of incredulity and greed that you inspire when you, as a law professor, tell a professor of English (say) that we let students make publication decisions. Surely, it is an exquisite form of humiliation to have some infant who can't earn a C in criminal law tell you that you really don't grasp the contours of mens rea. But for anyone who has suffered under the vengefulness and pomposity of a peer review system, the regime of the law review must look like a sinful indulgence.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Well, THIS was a nice surprise about my latest Connecticut piece.

See here.  In case that link is hinky, here's the text:

Article of the Month

August 2013

Nancy Rapoport, Rethinking U.S. Legal Education: No More Same Old Same Old, 45 Connecticut Law Review 1409 (2013).
Professor Rapoport begins this article with the well-supported premise that, "Teaching students how to think about the law is no longer-and probably never was-enough." But she doesn't stop there. The article presents a well thought out, empirically supportable, alternative to the current, typical (and empirically unsupportable) law school curriculum.
Law School, according to Professor Rapoport, should be divided into three distinct phases, each with a specific outcome in mind. This outcome based curriculum provides lawyers with the actual skills they need to be practicing lawyers rather than the very limited skill of gleaning fine details from court opinions honed by the Socratic Method."
The aim of the first year of law school should be dedicated to "Creating the Skilled Novice." The second year of law school should result in students becoming "Novice Problem Solvers." Finally, the third year of law school should be devoted to "Creating a Novice Professional with Basic Judgment." Professor Rapaport describes in detail the aspect, aims, and characteristics of this three-phased law school curriculum.
The empirical bases of Professor Rapoport's suggestions are well documented in detailed and comprehensive studies such as Best Practices, Carnegie, and McCrate (which most of legal academia has blatantly ignored thus far). Professor Rapoport suggests the following reasons why legal academia continues to ignore solid education:
  1. "Law Professors have a cushy life." In our current, high-salaried jobs, "we get to study what we want" and we don't have to worry about putting "the client's interest first."
  2. Most law professors are blissfully ignorant of education theory and research.
  3. Law schools reward the production of scholarship rather than the "painstaking amount of time it takes to think seriously about the curriculum, develop new courses that reflect the building of skill sets over time, determine better ways to evaluate whether a student is actually developing those skills, and recalibrate the curriculum," if outcomes are not being achieved.
The larger and more troubling question is whether perpetuating the inertia driven Socratic, legal education charade has now become an ethically questionable endeavor in light of the sound and copious educational research compiled against it. A colleague of mine suggested that the real reason for the adherence to discredited methodology in legal education is laziness. Surely that can't be right, even though I have not heard a more credible alternative for the resistance to change.
[Read fulltext at Connecticut Law Review website (1.2 MB PDF)]

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

For my law faculty colleagues--something free.

Jennifer Robbennolt & Jean Sternlight's book, Psychology for Lawyers, is a marvelous way to introduce students to the way that people (yes, including lawyers) perceive the world.  It's useful for students who plan to be litigators and for students who want to do deals.  Like every other ABA book, though, it's pretty pricey.  But here's the good news:

The ABA will provide you with some individual chapters for FREE to you and your students.

If you're interested, contact Jean at

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Newest "guilty pleasure" blog--update.

See hereHat tip to Brian Leiter.

UPDATE:  From my buddy George Connelly:  In my humble opinion, the "feel good" aspects of lower and higher education have created at least 2 generations of students who do not know how to spell, punctuate, or write.  And so long as grade inflation exists in the schools, that will continue.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Friday, April 08, 2011

An open letter to Nevada's governor and legislature and to the Board of Regents.

I was hoping to be able to speak at today's special meeting of the Board of Regents, during the public comment session, but I had to leave to teach my class later this morning. Here's what I would have said:

You have a very difficult task in front of you, with Nevada's budget situation getting worse every day, and I don't envy you. I did want to give you a feel for how some of the research done at the Boyd School of Law contributes directly to Nevadans and to the country as a whole.

First, some bragging about our students. I'm one of the faculty advisors to the Gaming Law Journal and the Nevada Law Journal ( Those two magazines publish both faculty research (not just our faculty's research, but the research done by scholars elsewhere as well) and student research. The GLJ is still rather young, but the NLJ's research has been cited by courts here in Nevada, including the Nevada Supreme Court, and by other courts. One of the country's most famous and well-regarded judges, the Hon. Richard Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has cited the NLJ more than once. By publishing useful and high quality research, our students are providing courts with the means to make good decisions.

Second, the research that I'm doing in terms of bankruptcy ethics (the behavior of bankruptcy lawyers) is part of my overall research agenda, which is geared to supporting the behavior of good lawyers and to getting bad lawyers out of the legal system. It's not every day that I see, on the front page of the Review-Journal, an article on the reasonableness of attorney fees in bankruptcy cases (here). Part of my own research involves developing ways to help bankruptcy courts determine whether attorneys fees are reasonable. Reasonableness is a balancing act. The fees must compensate good lawyers and other professionals for their work in helping a debtor reorganize, but they can't carry a lot of redundancies and inefficiency. Dollars saved by reviewing fees for reasonableness can inure to the benefit of unsecured creditors, who get paid after the professionals are compensated for their work. (Distribution of payments in bankruptcy is more complicated than this description, but this one will suffice here.) Based on my work in this area, I've been asked twice to assist a bankruptcy court in Fort Worth in reviewing fees of two large chapter 11 cases, and I'm currently assisting the bankruptcy court here in Nevada in a similar capacity. The Boyd students and graduates who help me in this work are learning about how large chapter 11 cases work, and about how lawyers and other professionals fit into that process. It's good hands-on learning that will serve them well in their careers.

My research in bankruptcy ethics has also enabled me to help out the Office of the U.S. Trustee (which is part of the Department of Justice) in ferreting out lawyers who may be violating the ethics rules about the unauthorized practice of law. My ability to be useful in such matters is directly tied to my research. In my view, teaching, research, and service are inextricably linked.

My research about legal education has also informed my teaching. I've been hearing for some time that law students are trained to write memoranda--not to advise clients. (Our clinic students, of course, get the training that comes with dealing with live clients.) That's one of the reasons that my upper-level Professional Responsibility students are doing presentations in class. It's also why those presentations require teamwork. Teaching students legal ethics in a way that forces them to construe statutes (the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and figure out how to convey information to people who don't already know it is part of their legal training. Again, it's a mix of teaching and research that lets me give students the opportunity to practice some of the skills that they'll need after graduation.

While I was waiting in line to speak this morning, I heard numerous examples of what the budget cuts will do to the educational system in Nevada. I couldn't help thinking about what a success story Boyd is. We're a young law school, and yet we're able to turn law students into skilled and ethical lawyers. We're doing a very good job on what amounts to a shoestring budget: we're understaffed, our students' tuition dollars are stretched to the breaking point, and we still do everything that a good law school must do in order to be relevant to legal education and to the public.

Several of us have had many opportunities to go elsewhere. I'm choosing to stay because I believe in the strength of our school, even in the face of this budget crisis, and because I value what my colleagues are doing to keep our school's trajectory moving in the right direction.

As you consider how to deal with the budget crisis, I would urge you to focus not just on how (and how much) we at UNLV teach but also on how our research benefits the state and the country (and, for some of my colleagues, the international community). Investing in education here in Nevada is crucial if our state is to survive. We can and should invest wisely--with all that "investing wisely" means-- but we have to invest.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

More on Brent Newton's article about law faculties.

Over at TaxProf Blog, Paul Caron has highlighted some juicy quotes from Brent Newton's article (you can download it here) about whether law professors are qualified to teach law (here).  The article, and the post, remind me of this article (here).

Monday, February 07, 2011

Bragging on my Professional Responsibility students.

So I'm teaching Professional Responsibility again this semester, and I'm doing it primarily through "law firm" presentations:  groups of law students who have to present the day's material in a way that provides coverage and encourages class participation.

Students have used movie clips, television shows, and games (including a rousing game of "Jeopardy," in which one of the categories was "What Would Rapoport Do?"--every day's presentation has been extremely good.  What makes me particularly happy about each of the presentations is that the students are learning that they can teach themselves the law.  That's a skill they'll need throughout their careers.

So:  we've covered in class the notion that whether someone is a client depends on whether that person reasonably believes that she is a client.  I've joked before that lawyers should wear shirts that have "I am not your lawyer" on the front and "This is not legal advice" on the back.

But I never expected one of the law firms to take me so literally:

Meet Kristin Gifford, Cheryl Grames, Anna Clark, and Chelsey Bosworth.  I expect that they will add entrepreneurship to their legal skills after graduation.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bravo to John Jay Douglass!

My former colleague, John Jay Douglass (here), passed along the news that he's retiring from law teaching.  I have mixed feelings--happy that he and his wife, Papoose, can spend more time together, and sad that his career in academia's ending.  As you can tell from even the brief description on the University of Houston Law Center's page above, he's educated not only law students but also district attorneys and other already-graduated professionals.

Here's to you, JJD!  I think the world of you!