Friday, October 20, 2017

Supreme Court Fellows Program – Call for Applications

The Supreme Court Fellows Commission is accepting applications through November 3, 2017, for one-year fellowships to begin in August or September 2018.  The Commission will select four talented individuals to engage in the work of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, the Federal Judicial Center, or the United States Sentencing Commission.  Fellows gain practical exposure to judicial administration, policy development, and education.  In each of the four placements, the Fellow will be expected to produce a publishable paper and will have unique access to federal judges, and to officers and staff of the federal judiciary, in connection with the research project. 

The Commission is especially seeking applicants who are completing or have recently completed a judicial clerkship, and are interested in pursuing an academic career or a career in public service.  Fellows will receive compensation equivalent to the GS-13/1 grade and step of the government pay scale (currently $94,796) and will be eligible for health insurance and other benefits offered to employees of the federal judiciary.  Appointments are full-time and based in Washington, D.C.  A small group of finalists will be invited to interview with the Commission at the Supreme Court in February 2018, and finalists will be contacted on selection decisions within one to two weeks after interviews.

Further information and the online application are available on the Supreme Court’s website.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 20, 2017 at 05:34 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My Student Guide to Judicial Clerkships

Around this time of the semester I meet with a lot of students who are interested in post-graduation judicial clerkships. UK Law does quite well at placing our students in federal clerkships, so I am happy that there is a buzz among our students about this career path. 

Because my individual meetings with students tend to be quite similar, in that they often have very similar questions, I prepared a guide for them to read before they come to meet with me. It answers some of the most frequent questions I receive. Because I bet that others could also benefit from this guide, I am reproducing it below.

A few caveats: first, some of the advice is specific to Kentucky. Second, these are just my views, so as the kids say, YMMV. Third, I frequently update this guide, so what is below is simply the current version.

With that said, feel free to share with those who may be interested.

Professor Douglas’s Handy-Dandy Guide to Federal Judicial Clerkships

            I am so glad you are considering applying for a federal judicial clerkship! Post-graduation clerkships are amazing jobs. They offer an inside look at judicial decision making, which will help your career no matter what you decide to do. You’ll work side-by-side with a judge who will serve as your guide and mentor. Your writing will improve dramatically. Some people say that a clerkship was the best job they ever had. All in all, if you have the opportunity for a judicial clerkship, then you should go for it!

            Many students ask to meet with me to discuss clerking. I am more than happy to meet, but I ask you read this guide first, as it will likely answer many of your questions. This guide should not serve as a substitute for a meeting; I definitely want to meet with you! But it will hopefully answer some of your initial questions so that we can focus on your specific situation when we meet.

What follows is simply my advice, based on my own clerkship experience and several years of advising students. Others may have different views, and I encourage you to talk to other professors and the Career Development Office for their perspective.

  1. Why should I clerk?

            See above. Clerking is an incredible experience. I use what I learned during my clerkship (for a 5th Circuit judge in Texas) almost every day. And I talk to my judge at least once a month. By clerking you become part of a “clerk family” (notice how I wrote “my judge”). Your co-clerks will become lifelong friends. Clerking can help no matter your ultimate career goals. It will open doors. It will improve your writing. It gives you an instant credibility boost in the eyes of employers. And it will stick with you for your entire career. Notice how every time someone is nominated to the Supreme Court, the media mentions where the person clerked. From a long-range perspective, clerking is an excellent way to begin your career. I have never talked to someone who regretted clerking before starting at a law firm, public interest organization, or other legal employer.

  1. What should I do if I already have an offer at a law firm or other organization?

            Speak with them about your desire to clerk. Most law firms highly value the experience and will hold your spot, at least for a year or two. If you explain your long-term dedication to the firm, they will not think poorly of you for at least exploring the opportunity to clerk. And some firms (though typically not the ones in Kentucky) will even pay a clerkship bonus.

            In addition, more opportunities are likely to arise because you have a clerkship on your resume. A clerkship, then, can improve your future employment prospects.

            That said, the salary of a judicial clerk is nowhere near as high as that of an associate at a law firm, and financial issues are important to consider. Just remember that there’s a long-term payoff, in terms of your overall career, to foregoing the law firm salary for a year if you are able to do so.

  1. Where should I clerk?

            My advice is to apply as broad geographically as you are willing to go for a year or two. If you don’t apply, then there’s a zero percent chance of landing the position (that’s just math!). When I went through the process I applied to about 200 judges all across the country. I really wanted a federal appellate clerkship, so I took a list of all federal appellate judges and deleted those in places where I could not see myself ever moving, even for a year or two. I then added some district court judges in certain geographic locations.

            I would start by thinking about where you have a geographic connection. Did you go to school in another state? Does your best friend live in Wyoming? Do you have a long-lost cousin in South Carolina? Any of these geographic connections can give you a leg up when you are applying. Of course, if you want to stay in Kentucky, then by all means focus on the Kentucky judges. But don’t discount going out of state for a year or two, especially if you can create a geographic connection to the area.

            Another question you may have is what level of judge to target. Generally speaking, federal circuit court clerkships are harder to obtain than federal district court clerkships, which are slightly harder than magistrate and bankruptcy court clerkships. All offer great experiences. Circuit court clerkships tend to be a little more isolated, where you will spend most of your time in chambers, but you can sometimes travel to cool cities for oral argument. These clerkships allow you to dive deeply into tough legal issues. District court and magistrate clerkships tend to have more interaction with lawyers and more time in court, and you’ll learn all about managing a docket. Any of these clerkships will provide tons of interaction with your judge. Come chat with me if you want to discuss this more.

  1. When should I apply?

            Many (but not all) Kentucky federal judges want to see at least three semesters’ worth of grades, which means they will start taking applications after the first semester of your second year. But many out-of-state judges hire even earlier! The best time to begin thinking about clerkships is during the first semester of your second year. You may want to send out some applications in October or November if judges you are targeting are open, while you can send the bulk of the applications after your 2L first semester grades are in.

            Look on Oscar to see which judges are accepting applications now. It’s also ok to call the chambers of a particular judge to see when that judge will start reviewing applications. You’ll most likely speak with the judicial assistant, who is used to receiving these calls.

            It is fine to apply early and then update your application with new information, such as grades, a new writing sample, etc. It is best to have your materials into the chambers as soon as the judge plans to consider applications.

            By the way, state court clerkships are also really great positions. State judges tend to hire later in the process, however, so it is generally ok to apply to federal judges first, and if it does not work out, you can then use your same materials (after updating them) to apply to state court judges.

  1. What should go in my application?
  • A cover letter (letter of transmittal)
  • Resume (one page, unless there are extraordinary circumstances for why you should go onto a second page)
  • Grade sheet (unofficial transcript)
  • Writing sample (your best possible writing)
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  1. What do you mean by “letter of transmittal”?

            Your cover letter should generally do nothing beyond introducing yourself and saying that your application materials are attached. This is not the place to make a case for yourself, explain that you are a strong writer, etc. Almost everyone applying has those same attributes. Ask me sometime to tell you about the ridiculous “Campbell’s Soup” cover letter I once saw. You don’t want to have that letter!

            The one exception here is that your cover letter should explain any geographic connection (or other connection) you may have with that judge. Essentially, you can use 1-3 sentences to explain why specifically you are applying to that judge. If you don’t have a particular reason for targeting that judge, then you do not need to add anything else.

  1. What should I use as a writing sample?

            Your writing sample should be your absolute best writing. What it is is far less important that how good it is. Many judges prefer a student Note, so if that’s ready, you can use it. But you may want to send some applications before it is done. That’s fine. You can use your appellate brief from 1L year, something you wrote over the summer (if your employer gives you permission), etc. The key here is that the writing sample should be flawless – especially on the first few pages and the last page (often judges won’t read beyond that). In terms of length, 10-15 pages is about right, so if your writing sample is longer it is ok to provide an excerpt with a cover letter explaining what it is and saying that the full version is available upon request.

  1. Who should write my letters of recommendation?

            You need at least three letters of recommendation. At least two should be from law professors who had you in class. The third also can be from a law professor (and in most cases that is best), but it is ok to ask someone else if that person is going to write you a glowing letter.

            Generally, you want someone who will write at least two pages about how great of a student you are and how you will be an amazing law clerk. Think about who knows you well, both inside and outside of the classroom. A letter that discusses various aspects of your performance, while also diving into strong personal attributes, is much better than a letter that simply says “this person was in my class and did really well.”

            I ask students who want me to write them a letter to prepare a 1-2 page memo telling me about them: Why did you go to law school? Why do you want to clerk? What are your ultimate career goals? What are your interests? What are some meaningful interactions we have had?

            Professor Chris Walker at Ohio State tweeted some advice for students seeking letters of recommendation. I wholeheartedly agree with his thoughts, which I reproduce in full here:

(1) When reaching out, please include resume, transcript, and talking points.

(2) Talking points should tell me what you want me to cover substantively and bonus points if in a format I could cut and paste into letter.

(3) Talking points are even better if they situate my letter within the context of any other letters, personal statement, etc.

(4) Talking points should include as much detail of our substantive interactions as possible, as that detail really makes the letter.

(5) Don’t assume I'll remember the highlights of our interactions. Remind me. Even when I do remember, your framing is often much better.

(6) Make very clear the deadline, and don’t hesitate to remind me as the date approaches.

(7) Also, if possible, give me the email and phone number of the Judge/partner/etc., so that it makes it easier for me to put in a good word.

(8) Once app submitted, keep your whole team posted on any developments.

(9) If you get an interview or make it to next round, email me again and include email/phone of employer to make it easy to reach out.

(10) Send thank you note once application is submitted. It means a lot for us old fashioned folks, esp hard copy under door makes my day.

(11) Finally, add your references to your holiday card list and let them know of any big life events or achievements over the years. I still let my college and grad school mentors know of life events, and they keep helping me advance in my career. /end

  1. Should I use Oscar or send paper applications?

            Oscar makes it really easy to submit applications to many judges at once. But is also allows judges, on their end, to filter out applications so they see only applicants from certain schools, of a certain GPA, etc. My advice, then, is to send paper applications if the judge accepts both Oscar and paper applications. That way you know that someone in the chambers will actually look at your application.

            That said, paper applications take time and money. You have to compile all of your materials, stuff envelopes, and mail them out. You can assume that you’ll need to spend $2-3 per application, and that can add up! You’ll therefore need to use your judgment on which ones to submit via mail and when to use Oscar.

            As for your recommendations, your professors will receive an email notice for Oscar applications, and we can take care of it from there. You should send us a spreadsheet with judges and addresses for any paper applications. If the letters are ready in time, we can seal them in envelopes and give them to you to put into the packet to mail out. But don’t wait for recommendations if the rest of your application is ready to go; we can send them separately.

  1. What’s next?

            You first task should be to identify who you want to ask for letters of recommendation and contact those people. That’s the only part of the application that you cannot control yourself. It’s ok to give your professors a deadline for the recommendation letter, so long as it is reasonable (a few weeks is about right).

            Your second task should be to decide what you will use as a writing sample and to clean it up to make it as perfect as possible.

            Your third task is to start creating a judge list.

            By this point you’ll be well on your way to applying for clerkships!

            Please come see me if this guide did not answer your question, if you have additional questions, or if you just want to chat about the process.

            Then, please let me know once you’ve applied to judges. And once you receive interview requests, come see me and we can chat about the interview process.

            Good luck!

Posted by Josh Douglas on October 18, 2017 at 10:49 AM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Laptops are loud

I banned laptops from my classroom beginning in January 2009 (the first semester following the faculty vote on my tenure) and my only regret was that I did not do so sooner. This was the early days of the anti-laptop push-back. A few professors (including David Cole of Georgetown) had begun identifying and arguing the negative effects, although we did yet have the empirical studies as support. In any event, it ha been about 20 semesters of teaching with no computers in the room.

In the past week, I have visited classrooms of three colleagues (as part of P&T review) who allow laptops. And boy do they make a lot of noise when 20+ students are all typing away at once. I noticed the quiet of no laptops almost immediately in January 2009. I forgot the loudness until this week.

 I know the students in the classes I observed either have in this semester and/or had in past semesters) professors who banned laptops. I remain struck and confused by how little voluntary change there has been. I keep expecting the no-laptop benefits to become so clear that students would recognize and never go back. But it has not happpened. Despite being prohibited from using laptops in Class A, more than half the students in both classes have gone back to using them when allowed to do so in Class B.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 12, 2017 at 10:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (37)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dean Search, Washburn University School of Law

Washburn University invites applications and nominations for the position of Dean of the Washburn University School of Law. The Law School is recognized for its outstanding teaching and faculty scholarship and its commitment to public service. It has a highly favorable student/faculty ratio, with an excellent student body drawn from a national pool.

One of only two law schools in the state of Kansas, Washburn University School of Law is located in Topeka, the state capital. It was established in 1903 and has built a long tradition and legacy of providing an outstanding legal education. Washburn Law offers a broad-based curriculum in national and international law to students enrolled in the J.D., LL.M., and M.S.L. programs. It features six centers for excellence, nine certificate programs, and four dual degree programs. The thirty-two full-time faculty members, along with a strong cohort of adjunct professors, teach and conduct scholarship across a wide array of legal specializations. The Law School enjoys a dedicated staff and strong support from the community.

For more than a century, Washburn Law has demonstrated its commitment to academic excellence, innovation, and diversity. Students choose from nearly 150 courses, including a variety of seminars and clinical offerings. From the first year through graduation, the comprehensive curriculum and innovative programs prepare students for success in the legal profession. For over forty years, Washburn’s Law Clinic has functioned as an in-house general practice law firm, providing students the opportunity to represent actual clients in eight practice areas.

Washburn University School of Law has excelled in the categories most important to our students and alumni: a high-quality curriculum; an exceptional faculty; outstanding library resources; favorable graduation statistics, bar passage rates, and employment outcomes; and affordability. Among other accolades, Washburn University School of Law is ranked #2 in the nation for Government Law and is one of twenty law schools recognized by National Jurist as "Top Law Schools for Government Jobs." Washburn Law is also among the top seventeen law schools in the country for Business and Corporate Law programs. Washburn Law’s Trial Advocacy program is ranked in the top sixteen programs this year.

Washburn Law’s six signature programs – the Center for Law and Government, the Center for Excellence in Advocacy, the Business and Transactional Law Center, the Children and Family Law Center, the Oil and Gas Law Center, and the International and Comparative Law Center establish an extensive learning network for law students and experienced professionals.

Our Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing program is consistently recognized as a top program by U.S. News & World Report, ranked 15th in the nation in the current edition. We are one of only a few law schools in the country with full-time, tenured and tenure-track legal writing professors who are involved in service and scholarship in the national legal writing community.

WashLaw, initiated in 1991 by the Washburn Law Library, is a legal research portal that provides users with links to significant sites of law-related materials on the Internet. It is one of the premier legal internet research services available to a worldwide audience of practicing and academic legal experts. WashLaw also hosts a large number of law-related discussion groups.

Washburn University seeks an exceptional candidate who has the vision, strategic acumen, entrepreneurial spirit, character, and presence to enhance the school’s existing strengths while moving the School of Law forward to a higher level of distinction. The Dean serves as the academic, fiscal, and administrative leader for the School of Law.

The School of Law is seeking a Dean who will work with the School of Law community to articulate a strategic vision to enhance its reputation, strengthen its fiscal position, and lead its efforts to meet the challenges of the changing landscape for legal education. The successful applicant must have a J.D. degree and demonstrate critical thinking and an ability to adapt to the changing market while moving the School of Law forward successfully.

The successful candidate will have a record of experience commensurate with appointment as a Professor of Law; a passion for academic excellence and intellectual inquiry; a recognized dedication to teaching excellence; a demonstrated commitment to institutional and community service; a thorough and current understanding of the legal environment; effective interpersonal and communication skills; and the ability to develop strong relationships with all of the law school’s constituencies thereby growing private financial support for the School of Law. Candidates must possess a collaborative work style, well-developed organizational skills, a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the highest degree of integrity and professionalism. A record of progressively responsible leadership experience in administration is required.

To be considered, submit electronically in pdf format a cover letter, resume, and at least three references to Joan Bayens at joan.bayens@washburn.edu. A search committee will begin to review candidate materials by October 27, 2017, and will continue until interviews are scheduled. Employment at Washburn University will be conditioned upon satisfactory completion of a background check. The successful candidate will submit official transcripts prior to hire. Washburn University is an Equal Opportunity Employer. To enrich education through diversity, candidates from underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 20, 2017 at 06:32 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Hiring Announcement: Loyola-Chicago

Loyola University Chicago School of Law invites applications for a tenure-track position beginning in the fall of 2018, pending final approval of funding.  We welcome applicants whose primary area of expertise is Environmental Law with a willingness to teach either Civil Procedure or Property.  We are particularly interested in candidates whose scholarship aligns with Loyola’s mission of social justice, as well as candidates who are members of communities traditionally under-represented in the legal profession.  We seek applicants whose research and teaching will contribute to Loyola University’s commitment to solving societal and environmental problems, and advance Loyola's position as a national university leader on environmental research, policy and justice.  Appointment rank will be determined commensurate with the candidate’s qualifications and experience. 

Qualifications:  Applicants for this position should hold a J.D. or LL.B. degree from an accredited law school and have distinguished academic credentials.  Candidates for the position must clearly demonstrate the potential for excellence in research and teaching and have a record of (or clear potential for) distinguished scholarship.   

Special Instructions to Applicants:  Questions about the position can be directed to the Chair of the Committee.  Applicants should submit a current Curriculum Vitae, a teaching statement and research agenda, sample publications, and a letter of interest to http://www.careers.luc.edu/postings/5520.  Please also provide the names and email addresses of three individuals prepared to speak to your professional qualifications for this position.  Please note: these references will not be contacted immediately, but may be contacted at an appropriate later point in the review process.  Additional materials related to teaching excellence and samples of scholarly publications may be submitted electronically at the above website, or emailed or mailed to:

Sacha M. Coupet

Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

25 East Pearson Street

Chicago, IL 60611

scoupet@luc.edu

Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.

Loyola University Chicago is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer with a strong commitment to hiring for our mission and diversifying our faculty.  As a Jesuit Catholic institution of higher education, we seek candidates who will contribute to our strategic plan to deliver a Transformative Education in the Jesuit tradition.  To learn more about LUC’s mission, candidates should consult our website at www.luc.edu/mission/.   Applications from women, minorities, veterans, and persons with disabilities are especially encouraged.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 6, 2017 at 06:03 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Article Submissions: W&L Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice

The Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice (JCRSJ) is conducting a direct article review for submissions to our Fall 2017 Book, Volume 23, Issue 1. Any article submitted to the journal by Sunday, August 27 at 10:00 p.m. will be reviewed and evaluated before September 4.  If you have submitted an article to JCRSJ previously, please resubmit your article for consideration in this direct review.

By submitting your article, you agree to accept a publication offer, if extended by the journal.  Any articles accepted will be published in Volume 23, Issue 1, scheduled for publication in December 2017.

If you wish to submit an article, please e-mail an attached copy of the article, along with your CV, to JCRSJ@law.wlu.edu.  Please include “2017 Direct Article Review” in the subject line. Thank you so much and we look forward to reviewing a number of articles.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 13, 2017 at 01:52 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Teaching via treatise

Classes begin at FIU on Monday.*

[*] Although I must confess to wishing we had another two weeks of summer this year. This is unusual for me--I enjoy the semesters more than summers, because I like the rhythm and routine of teaching. But I am in the midst of three projects and believe I could finish all with an extra two weeks before having to balance teaching time. 

I am trying something different in Federal Courts this semester. I am not using a casebook, but instead am working primarily from two treatises (Erwin Chemerinsky's comprehensive Fed Courts treatise and Jim Pfander's Principles treatise), along with the Constitution, statutes, a handful (maybe 10) of recent cases, and some problems. I have been toying with this for a couple years and finally decided to pull the trigger this year. A few thoughts went into this. I sensed that in upper-level classes, many students used the treatises to prep rather than reading the cases.  My class discussion is organized in a treatise format--we do not work through individual cases, but discuss the doctrine at a macro-level whole, so it may be better to have them read and prepare in a similar format. And the author of one of the books convinced me that my spoon-feeding concerns ("the students are not having to figure out the rules of standing for themselves, Chemerinsky and Pfander are telling them the rules") were overstated and that the class discussion can be as rigorous. Plus, as I will remind the students on Monday, they will have more total pages of reading this way, and while it may take less time or require less re-reading, they still must read with care and preparation to engage in the discussion.

If I like how it works, I plan to follow the same format in Civil Rights in the spring, using my treatise (new edition forthcoming).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 11, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (21)

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

SEALS faculty recruitment

SEALS is considering whether to establish a faculty recruitment conference for member and affiliated schools.* Details--whether it should be for laterals, entry-levels, or both; whether it should be in conjunction with the August annual meeting--are yet to be hashed out. The organization will appoint a committee to study the question.

[*] Motto: "Every school is southeast of somewhere."

Faculty at member and affiliated schools who are interested in serving on the committee can contact Russ Weaver at Louisville. If you have thoughts on the idea and how to implement it, leave them in the comments.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 8, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

CFP: Petrie-Flom Center: BEYOND DISADVANTAGE: DISABILITY, LAW, AND BIOETHICS

Beyond Disadvantage: Disability, Law, and Bioethics
JUNE 1, 2018

“Congress acknowledged that society’s accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment.”

                                        Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., School Bd. of Nassau, Fl. v. Arline, 480 U.S. 273 (1973).

The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School is pleased to announce plans for our 2018 annual conference, entitled: “Beyond Disadvantage: Disability, Law, and Bioethics.” This year’s conference is organized in collaboration with the Harvard Law School Project on Disability.

Conference Description

Historically and across societies people with disabilities have been stigmatized and excluded from social opportunities on a variety of culturally specific grounds. These justifications include assertions that people with disabilities are biologically defective, less than capable, costly, suffering, or fundamentally inappropriate for social inclusion. Rethinking the idea of disability so as to detach being disabled from inescapable disadvantage has been considered a key to twenty-first century reconstruction of how disablement is best understood.
Such ‘destigmatizing’ has prompted hot contestation about disability. Bioethicists in the ‘destigmatizing’ camp have lined up to present non-normative accounts, ranging from modest to audacious, that characterize disablement as “mere difference” or in other neutral terms. The arguments for their approach range from applications of standards for epistemic justice to insights provided by evolutionary biology. Conversely, other bioethicists vehemently reject such non-normative or “mere difference” accounts, arguing instead for a “bad difference” stance. “Bad difference” proponents contend that our strongest intuitions make us weigh disability negatively. Furthermore, they warn, destigmatizing disability could be dangerous because social support for medical programs that prevent or cure disability is predicated on disability’s being a condition that it is rational to avoid. Construing disability as normatively neutral thus could undermine the premises for resource support, access priorities, and cultural mores on which the practice of medicine depends.
The “mere difference” vs. “bad difference” debate can have serious implications for legal and policy treatment of disability, and shape strategies for allocating and accessing health care. For example, the framing of disability impacts the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, and other legal tools designed to address discrimination. The characterization of disability also has health care allocation and accessibility ramifications, such as the treatment of preexisting condition preclusions in health insurance. The aim of the conference is to construct a twenty-first century conception of disablement that resolves the tension about whether being disabled is merely neutral or must be bad, examines and articulates the clinical, philosophical, and practical implications of that determination, and attempts to integrate these conclusions into medical and legal practices.

Call for Abstracts

We seek proposals that offer innovative conceptualizations and advance inventive approaches. Proposals should focus on the fresh contributions the presentation will make, including sketches of the supporting arguments. The abstract should include (but not be limited to) a paragraph summarizing the issue that will be addressed and any currently contending views about its resolution. Successful abstracts will explicitly address how the proposed presentation will address the challenges of integrating legal and medical understandings of disablement.

We welcome submissions on both broad conceptual questions and more specific policy issues related to the “mere difference” vs. “bad difference” debate. Potential topics include:
• Can disability be considered definitively bad, without defining living with a disability as inescapably disadvantageous?
• Can we ameliorate mismatches between the capabilities of people living with disabilities and the socially constructed environment without seeming to privilege them?
• Do the kinds of human diversity that disablement represents threaten the species or harm society? Can they improve the human species or benefit society?
• (How) are bioethicists obligated to represent or at least respect the standpoints of people with disabilities?
• Does the U.S. Supreme Court characterize and categorize disability correctly in the seminal equal protection case, Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center? How can we reconcile making special or individualized arrangements to avoid excluding individuals based on disability with equal opportunity and equal protection?
• Do different agencies’ and programs’ diverse definitions of disability—for example, that for some programs medical diagnoses suffice for disability status while others demand demonstrations of severe dysfunction—undercut efforts to address disability discrimination?
• What is the standard for people with disabilities having meaningful access to health care? What is the minimum standard for people with disabilities’ access to health care below which denial of care equates to disability discrimination?
• How may protections against disability discrimination—especially claims to civil rights or human rights—most effectively be made operative in the medical clinic?
• Can the processes for accommodating disabilities be secured against fraud?
• How should the impact of differences due to disability affect the way the competence of people with disabilities for accepting or rejecting treatment is assessed? How might new technologies affect courts’ determinations in this regard?
• What progress has been made in increasing the proportion of medical professionals with disabilities and what steps are needed to speed this effort?
• (How) should people with disabilities’ inability to achieve normal functioning affect their priority for scarce or expensive health care?
• Given the current state of data about their risks of morbidity, should lifesaving interventions for extremely preterm infants be harder to obtain than for other babies?
• Can Disability Pride be as effective for “destigmatizing” as earlier expressions of pride made by social movements such as those advanced by the LGBTQi, Women’s, or other groups?

Please note that this list is not meant to be exhaustive; we hope to receive abstracts related to the conference’s central question even if the particular topic was not specifically listed here. Proposals should demonstrate a clear linkage to all three aspects of the conference—disability, bioethics, and law. Papers that focus on ethics should include substantial discussion of policy implications. Relatedly, law will be treated broadly to include governmental policy decisions more generally. Successful abstracts will propose or outline an argument/position, rather than merely stating a topic.

In an effort to encourage interdisciplinary and international dialogue, we welcome submissions from legal scholars and lawyers, bioethicists, philosophers, clinicians, medical researchers, disability rights advocates, public health practitioners, behavioral economists, government officials and staff, and others who have a meaningful contribution to make on this topic. We welcome philosophical and legal reflections from contributors across the world, but these submissions should be general or United States- focused rather than comparative in nature. We welcome submissions from advocacy organizations, think tanks, and others outside academia, but emphasize that this is a scholarly conference, and abstracts/papers will be held to academic standards of argumentation and support.

How to Participate

If you are interested in participating, please send a 1-page abstract of the paper you would plan to present to petrie-flom@law.harvard.edu as soon as possible, but not later than October 15, 2017. If your abstract is selected, your final paper will be due on April 1, 2018, and you will be assigned a presentation slot for the conference. Please note that all presenters must provide a full final draft in order to participate and that presenters are expected to attend the conference for its full duration. We will accept conference papers of all lengths and styles (e.g., law review, medical, philosophy, or policy journal, etc.), but presentations will be limited to 15 minutes. The conference will be held on Friday, June 1, 2018. We will pay travel expenses for presenters who must travel to Cambridge; co-authored papers must name a single presenter.

In the past, we have successfully turned several of our conferences into edited volumes (e.g., with Cambridge, MIT, Johns Hopkins, and Columbia University presses). It is possible, although not guaranteed, that conference presenters will publish their papers with us in an edited volume whose chapters will be limited to 5,000 words, including references. Previous conference participants have been able to publish their submissions in different formats in multiple venues, for example both as a short book chapter and a longer law review article. However, the version that will be used for an edited volume should not have been published previously or be planned to publish separately.

How to Register

Registration information is available here. Attendance is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Stay tuned for the conference agenda, which will be posted to our website once abstracts have been selected.

Questions
Please contact the Petrie-Flom Center with any questions: petrie-flom@law.harvard.edu, 617-496-4662.

Sponsored by the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. This year’s conference is organized in collaboration with the Harvard Law School Project on Disability.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 2, 2017 at 08:21 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Rotations

Welcome to August and to our returning guests--Shima Baughman (Utah), David Fontana (GW), and Rhett Larson (ASU).

Remember that Redyip will be seen in a couple of weeks.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 1, 2017 at 08:01 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (6)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

CFP: National Conference of Constitutional Law Scholars

The Rehnquist Center is pleased to announce the inaugural National Conference of Constitutional Law Scholars. The conference will be held at the Westward Look Resort in Tucson, Arizona, on March 16-17, 2018. Its goal is to create a vibrant and useful forum for constitutional scholars to gather and exchange ideas each year.

Adrian Vermeule will deliver a keynote address. Distinguished commentators for 2018 include:

  • Jamal Greene
  • Aziz Huq
  • Pamela Karlan
  • Frank Michelman
  • Cristina Rodriguez
  • Reva Siegel
  • Robin West

All constitutional law scholars are invited to attend. Those wishing to present a paper for discussion should submit a 1- to 2-page abstract by September 15, 2017. All constitutional law topics are welcome, and both emerging and established scholars are strongly encouraged to submit. Selected authors will be notified by October 15, 2017. Selected papers will be presented in small panel sessions, organized by subject, with commentary by a distinguished senior scholar.

Please send all submissions or related questions to Andrew Coan (acoan@email.arizona.edu). For logistical questions or to register for the conference, please contact Bernadette Wilkinson (bwilkins@email.arizona.edu). The Rehnquist Center will provide meals for all registered conference participants. Participants must cover travel and lodging costs. Hotel information will be provided as the date approaches.

Register here.

Conference Organizers

Andrew Coan, Arizona

David Schwartz, Wisconsin

Brad Snyder, Georgetown

The Rehnquist Center

The William H. Rehnquist Center on the Constitutional Structures of Government was established in 2006 at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. The non-partisan center honors the legacy of Chief Justice Rehnquist by encouraging public understanding of the structural constitutional themes that were integral to his jurisprudence: the separation of powers among the three branches of the federal government, the balance of powers between the federal and state governments, and among sovereigns more generally, and judicial independence.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 22, 2017 at 11:19 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The lawyer, the addict, and the law professors

What did people think about The Lawyer, the Addict in last weekend's New York Times? The piece was written by the ex-wife of a lawyer who died of an overdose; in investigating her husband's drug use and death, the author found a legal profession with high rates of substance abuse.

For now, I want to focus on one small section of the piece, sub-titled "The Law School Effect," which suggests that law school is part of the problem. Prior to law school, future law students are healthier than the general population--they drink less, use less drugs, have less depression, and are less hostile; they also begin with a stronger sense of self and values. Then it all changes in law school, which "twists people’s psyches and they come out of law school significantly impaired, with depression, anxiety and hostility." Following the start of law school, students show "a marked increase in depression, negative mood and physical symptoms, with corresponding decreases in positive affect and life satisfaction."

The piece points to a few factors. One is the way law school encourages students to remove emotions from their decisions. Another is the focus, and the shift in student focus, to status, comparative worth and competition, looking at things such as grades, honors, and potential career income, and away from the idealism that had motivated them to come to law school. The result is that young lawyers succumb to substance abuse when "the reality of working as a lawyer does not match what they had pictured while in law school."

I focus on this because it is the one part of this I might affect in my professional life. But I wonder what we as law professors can or should do about this. Start with the three big things mentioned in the article:

   • I am not sure law school encourages students to remove emotion from their decisions as much as to learn that emotion cannot be the basis for the decision. I like when students feel passionately about something. The problem--and the thing law school must teach--is that the whole of the analysis cannot be emotion and emotion cannot get in the way of everything else; they must move past emotion and go where the law does, can, or should lead, which is what I think law school tries to do. I also believe many professors and courses try to get students to think not only descriptively but also prescriptively about what the law should be or about how they would counsel a client to behave. But if it is all emotion--this is how I feel it should be--we are doing cable news or Twitter, not law.

   • Is law school more focused on grades, honors, and career income than other professional schools? Also, is this focus coming from law schools or from the profession? And, in any event, what can we do about it? Students go to law school to get jobs as lawyers--a central criticism of legal education is that we are producing too many lawyers who will not get jobs (or at least not good jobs) as lawyers. So career focus seems seems built into the education process. As to grades and honors, those are the signals that the job market uses in giving out jobs as lawyers. I suppose it would be nice not to give grades (grading is every prof's least-favorite part of the job), but that obviously is not happening. Students are aware of the import of grades and honors because they know they are the keys to getting jobs. At least within the curriculum, most professors are focused on students learning the subject rather than getting good grades, although the two ideally run together.

   • Loss of idealism is inevitable and, by definition, unrealistic. This is not unique to law or law school. (The author's ex-husband worked  as a chemist before law school, but found the work tedious--I imagine it departed from what he expected when he went to grad school for chemistry). Loss of idealism seems akin to the removal of emotion--idealism should not be eliminated, but it cannot control the game. We live, and will practice law in, the real world.

Another obvious factor, not mentioned in the article, is that law school is a lot of work--a lot of reading, a lot of preparation, and a lot of assignments going on at once. And it is not structured passively, with students sitting and listening to us lecture, so it is difficult to just skate by (at least in first year). Again, however, so is legal practice. Even if one wants to argue that the traditional law school classroom is ineffective and should be replaced by other methods, those other methods still require to read and be prepared for class, so the amount of work and preparation does not change. And, again, is law school more work than med school, engineering school, etc.?

So what can law schools and legal education do to not be a gateway that, by its nature and structure, starts students into this potential danger (according to the article)? (In answering, we must assume no changes to the legal profession or what life is like for practicing lawyers--law schools cannot make unilateral changes that would create more of a disconnect between education and the profession).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 19, 2017 at 12:28 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (33)

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Bleg: Course/Credit Releases

I am reposting an earlier request:

I am looking for information on how other law schools handle periodic/sporadic/special release from the regular number of courses and credits (whether from 4 to 3 or 3 to 2). I am looking for information about one-year/one-time reduction--how often they happen, who decides, what criteria are applied, etc.? Is it a one-time special release, to be requested and approved when big projects arise? Do you use an hour-banking system, with a release every third or fourth year? Something else entirely?

You can comment below or email me at howard.wasserman@fiu.edu.

 

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 7, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

How other law schools do things

Looking for some ideas on how law schools handle some faculty matters.

1) Course/credit releases. How do you handle periodic/special releases from the regular number of courses and credits (whether from 4 to 3 or 3 to 2). Not thinking about faculty buying out, but rather  one-year reductions because of big scholarly projects, etc. How often can faculty do this? Who decides--the dean, faculty, or some combination? Is there written criteria as to what justifies it or is left to decanal discretion? Do the credits get made up in a subsequent year? Is it a banking system?

2) Co-authored articles for P&T. How are P&T committees handling co-authored works in evaluating a colleague's productivity and in deciding what to send for outside review? Are such works being discounted? Do you ask the candidate for a breakdown of who did what or how the writing process worked on the project?

Please respond in comments.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 18, 2017 at 03:48 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The 2017 Texas Regional Legal Scholars Workshop

The following is from Dave Fagundes of University of Houston Law Center, on behalf of that school and Southern Methodist University Law School, on the 2017 Texas Regional Legal Scholars Workshop.

Would you like early-stage feedback on a research idea? Or late-stage feedback on an article ready for submission? Or something in between? Your colleagues at UH Law Center and SMU Law School invite you to join us for the third annual Texas Regional Legal Scholars Workshop, to be held on August 25-26, 2017, at the University of Houston Law Center in Houston, Texas. The Texas Regional Legal Scholars Workshop—which for the first time will also include scholars from law schools in Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico—provides an intimate setting for early-career scholars (those with less than 10 years in a full-time faculty position) to receive feedback on an idea, work-in-progress, or a polished draft. We welcome legal scholars from all disciplines.

The workshop will give participants the chance to meet other early-career scholars in Texas and surrounding states, share feedback on research, and enjoy a few social events. There is no registration fee. Attendees are responsible for their own hotel and travel expenses, but UHLC will pay for meals, including a hosted dinner at a restaurant on Friday night.

Who: Scholars with less than 10 years in a full-time law faculty position (including tenure-track, non-tenure-track, clinical, and legal writing positions) at any law school located in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Please note due to space limitations, only scholars from schools in those five states are eligible to attend.

When: The workshop will be on Friday August 25th & Saturday August 26th, 2017. The Friday session will run from approximately 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm, and the Saturday session will run from approximately 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. (These times may be adjusted slightly depending upon the number of attendees.) The deadline for registering is Monday, June 1st. Please register online. When registering, please provide a title for your paper and specify the topic from the pull-down menu. If you have a paper to upload, please do so (we understand that participants may not be able to upload a draft at the time of registration). Updated drafts may be posted at the same web address as your paper progresses.

Each attendee is also expected to serve as the primary commenter on at least one paper. We will assign attendees to papers once we have a final list of participants and topics. For this reason, we ask that you submit an entry only if you are confident about being able to attend; late withdrawals may leave other participants without a commenter for their paper.

Where: University of Houston Law Center, 4604 Calhoun Rd., Houston, TX 77204.

Format: The author will present a 5-10 minute synopsis of his or her paper, identifying specific areas for feedback. Then, a primary commenter will speak for around 10 minutes. After that, other attendees may take turns commenting. Each session will last no more than 60 minutes.

Hotel: We have reserved a block of rooms at the UH Hilton, located on the University of Houston campus a short walk from the Law Center. Rooms in the block are available for the nights of August 25 and 26, and cost $119 per night. The block will be available until July 26 or until it fills up, whichever comes first. Please make reservations in the UH Hilton room block online.

Questions: Dave Fagundes (dfagunde@central.uh.edu) or Nathan Cortez (ncortez@smu.edu).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 9, 2017 at 08:12 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Northwestern Law Review exclusive summer submissions

From July 1-July 21. Details here.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 9, 2017 at 11:50 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Announcement: Prospective Law Teachers Workshop at SEALS

Each year, SEALS hosts a Prospective Law Teachers Workshop, which provides opportunities for aspiring law teachers to network and participate in mock interviews and mock job talks — prior to the actual teaching market. The Committee also schedules 1-on-1 sessions for candidates to receive faculty feedback on their CVs. This year’s Prospective Law Teacher’s Workshop will be held at The Boca Resort in Boca Raton, Florida on Wednesday, August 2 and Thursday, August 3. On Wednesday, there will be mock interviews between 8 and 10 AM with CV review sessions at 1:00. On Thursday, mock job talks will take place from 8 to 10 AM. And at 3:00 on Thursday, we will have a panel entitled “Navigating the Hiring Process” which will feature recent tenure track hires who will give advice about getting hired in this “new" market. There are also many excellent panels on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday that are targeted to newer law professors, which prospective law professors will also find helpful. See http://sealslawschools.org/submissions/program/programwp.asp.

If you are interested in participating in this year’s workshop, please send your CV to professor Brad Areheart (Tennessee) at brad.areheart@tennessee.edu, who co-chairs the committee along with Leah Grinvald (Suffolk). Applications are due by May 15, 2017. Many of the past workshop participants have gone on to obtain tenure-track positions in legal academia and now teach at a wide variety of schools, including Tulane, South Carolina, UNC, Cal Western, Oklahoma, Boston U, Idaho, Colorado, Louisville, and others.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 6, 2017 at 04:35 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Call for Exclusive Submissions: Penn State Law Review

The following is from Penn State Law Review:

The Penn State Law Review is conducting a direct article review to fill positions in Volume 122: Issue 1 and 2. Any article submitted to this review between now and May 12th will be considered and evaluated by May 17th. If you have submitted an article to the Penn State Law Review previously, you must resubmit your article for consideration in this direct review. 

By submitting your article, you agree to accept an offer for publication, should one be extended. Any articles accepted will be published in Volume 122: Issue 1 or Issue 2 of this review. Issue 1 is currently scheduled for publication in September 2017. 

If you have an article that you would like to submit, please e-mail an attached copy of the article, along with your CV, to SBL5219@psu.edu. Please include “2017 Direct Article Review” in the subject line.

Please feel free to contact me with questions.

Sarah Loy, Editor-in Chief of the Penn State Law Review
sbl5219@psu.edu

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 4, 2017 at 01:57 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Getting Civ Pro mileage out of Trump

For my in-semester essays in Civ Pro, I got a lot of mileage out of Zervos v. Trump, the defamation lawsuit filed by the former Apprentice contestant who alleges Trump sexually assaulted her (the allegation is that when Zervos went public with her allegations and Trump denied them, he called Zervos a liar, constituting defamation per se).

I got four essays out of the basic lawsuit, with only a little bit of elaboration beyond the Complaint itself and only a few made-up or altered facts, as necessary: 1) Whether another of Trump's sexual-assault accusers (I used Natasha Stoynoff, the People Magazine journalist) could join as a plaintiff; 2) How Trump could raise a defense of presidential immunity (that is, the difference between 12(b)(6) and 12(c) for affirmative defenses--I moved the case to federal court); 3) Whether Trump could remove to federal court in New York (a test of the Forum Defendant Rule--I tweaked the facts and had the lawsuit filed on January 23); and 4) Whether Zervos could have filed the lawsuit in her home state of California rather than New York (a test of the Effects Test for personal jurisdiction, with some internet thrown in).

All-in-all, a helpful teaching case, in a framework that students would be interested in and with which they would be somewhat familiar. And, at least so far, no complaints from students about asking them to write about Donald Trump and his misdeeds, even having to answer one question as Trump's counsel.

I will leave with a question for the Civ Pro types: What would your conclusion be on the P/J-in-California question? Based on the allegations in the Complaint, Zervos is from California and one of the sexual assaults that Trump denies occurred there (the other occurred in New York). But Trump's denials of the assault accusations (i.e., the defamatory statements) were made either via Twitter directed at the world or at campaign rallies in states other than California, with no indication the statements made it into California through his efforts. And what makes Trump's denials defamatory is that he is denying Zervos' statements about the assaults, which were not made in California, not the California-based assault itself. My initial thought was that there would be no jurisdiction in California. But when I sat down to write the sample answer reaching that conclusion, I moved in the other direction (I ended up writing two sample answers, one going each way). Thoughts?

If my initial conclusion was wrong and California would have jurisdiction over Trump, it raises some interesting questions and ties personal jurisdiction to other, strategic issues for the plaintiff. If there is jurisdiction in California, why did the plaintiff go to New York, especially New York state court? Trump is certainly no less popular in New York City than in California (although perhaps not Orange County, where Zervos lives). One answer may be that she wanted to keep the case in state court--because of the Forum Defendant Rule, Trump (almost certainly a New Yorker) could not remove to federal court in New York, although he could remove to federal court in California. But to the extent any temporal presidential immunity exists, it would be in state court (an issue the Court in Clinton v. Jones left open), while it is clear that no such immunity exists in federal court. That being so, why would Zervos pick state court over federal court?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 25, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

AJIL Unbound

A new online supplement to the American Journal of International Law:

AJIL Unbound is published on behalf of the American Society of International Law. AJIL Unbound supplements the American Journal of International Law (AJIL) by publishing short, original essays addressing developments in public international law and private international law. Featuring timely essays written in a readable style accessible to international law policymakers, practitioners, and students, AJIL Unbound seeks to broaden and diversify the scholarly exchanges on international law begun in the pages of AJIL and to introduce new ones online. 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 5, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Welcome to Max Stearns and "Blindspot"

Max Stearns (Maryland) has joined the law professor blogosphere with Blindspot, which he describes here. Posts so far have covered the Gorsuch hearings, coffee, the TV show "Rectify" (whose final season I need to watch), and ideological blindspots of both political parties.

Definitely worth adding to your regular blog stops.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 26, 2017 at 10:50 AM in Blogging, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Journalism, law, and asking questions

This piece, arguing that reporters undermine their checking function by asking complex, multi-part questions or burying a single question in a long lead-up, is spot-on. And the comparison to what we try to do in law school and law is apt. Effective cross-examination involves single, pointed questions. The same for effective questioning during oral argument--part of why Justice Breyer's questions are so incomprehensible and impossible to wade through is all the crap surrounding the question--which is usually just "respond to what I just rambled about for 3 transcript pages." It also what effective classroom teachers do, guiding the discussion with singular pointed and precise questions.

The result in journalism and law is the same: If the question is memorable because so beautifully and intricately phrased, the answer will not be memorable--because it will not have gotten a meaningful answer or even any answer, at the least not the one the questioner was hoping for.

Update: Needless to say, this also would make confirmation hearings far more bearable.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 21, 2017 at 04:14 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

PrawfsFest! 2017

The following is posted on behalf of Jake Linford at FSU (jlinford@law.fsu.edu), who is hosting the first PrawfsFest! since Dan's death.

I am among the many beneficiaries of that most Markelian (Markelish?) of workshops, the Prawfsfest! It has been too long since the last Prawfsfest, and so I will be hosting a new session at Florida State University College of Law in Funky Tallahassee. The plan is to gather on April 27-28, during FSU’s exam period, but before the weather turns too hot.

The point of the gathering is to be an incubator for half-baked scholarship and early works-in-progress (pre-submission, pre-SSRN).  Each participant is expected to produce of a draft of no more than 10,000 words.  The author does not present the paper, but instead we spend an hour on constructive criticism of each paper, which everyone will have read.

I have 6 available slots, open to any former or current PrawfsBlawgger, which will be distributed first come, first served. Each participant must cover their own travel expenses and hotel accommodations, but FSU will pick up meals. Historically, the conversation and feedback have justified the cost. I'm hoping to finalize the list of attendees as soon as possible, so please let me know (jlinford@law.fsu.edu) if you plan to attend by March 15, 2017.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 1, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Blogging, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Acosta nominated as Secretary of Labor

Alexander Acosta, my dean at FIU College of Law since 2009, has been nominated (and will almost certainly be confirmed, possibly overwhelmingly) as Secretary of Labor. When we hired Alex, I predicted out loud that we would have him until a Republican was next in the White House. Turns out, I was right. I predicted/hoped that it would be 2021 rather than 2017. And I predicted/expected we would lose him to DOJ as Attorney General or to the federal bench; Labor never crossed my mind, despite his time at the NLRB.

Alex had what I believe should be regarded as a very successful deanship. The quality and success of our students has improved dramatically; we are ranked in the mid-50s on US News (yeah, I know) for student quality and job placement and we have topped Florida in bar passage the past three cycles. (Scholarly reputation is nearly immovable, although he supported programs to help on that front). He managed us through the financial and application drop--our applications have been up or down less than national averages most years. The only thing I predicted back in 2009 that he might do, but has not, was find a naming-rights donor. But those do not grow on trees.

I was skeptical of hiring a non-academic dean at the beginning. It turned out we were on the leading edge of a trend that numerous similar schools followed. He brought a unique skill set (notably the ability to recruit and support students) that is not easy to find or replicate and it did wonders for the school.

He will be missed, but I wish him all the best.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 16, 2017 at 03:57 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, February 13, 2017

CFP: 2d Annual Ad Law New Scholarship Roundtable

The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law is pleased to host the Second Annual Administrative Law New Scholarship Roundtable on June 27-28, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio.

The Roundtable is the creation of four schools—Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and University of Wisconsin—each of which has committed to hosting the Roundtable during one of the first four years of the Roundtable.

The Roundtable will bring together a mix of emerging and established scholars to present new work on Administrative Law. Participants will present their papers in small panel sessions designed to foster rich discussions with experts in the field and contribute to a vibrant Administrative Law community. Each panel will be led by a distinguished scholar who will facilitate the discussion. Confirmed commentators currently include Emily Hammond (George Washington), Lisa Heinzerling (Georgetown), Jon Michaels (UCLA), Nick Parrillo (Yale), Peter Shane (Ohio State), Cathy Sharkey (NYU), and Glen Staszewski (Michigan State). In addition to the paper panels, a lunch program will address current issues in Administrative Law and institutional resources for empirical research projects.

Scholars wishing to participate in the Roundtable and present a paper must submit a one-to-two-page abstract by Friday, March 17, 2017. Applicants should include their title, institutional affiliation, and number of years teaching in the academy. Preference will be given to those who have been teaching nine years or less in a tenure-track position. Abstracts should be sent to Chris Walker at walker.1432@osu.edu. You may also contact Chris Walker or Peter Shane with any questions you may have about the Roundtable.

The Roundtable will provide meals for all participants. Participants must cover their own travel and lodging costs. We will reserve a block of reasonably priced rooms at a local hotel in advance of the Roundtable.


Administrative Law New Scholarship Roundtable Host Committee

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 13, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Random thoughts on a Sunday

1) Judge Donnelly's temporary stay of removal of those at U.S. ports of entry who are legally authorized to enter the United States raises, from the other political side, the issue of nationwide injunctions against enforcement of U.S.policy. Darweesh purported to be suing on behalf of others similarly situated, although Judge Donnelly did not perform any part of the FRCP 23 analysis. But at the stage of a temporary emergency stay or temporary restraining order, this is less problematic than on a preliminary or permanent injunction entered after full briefing by the parties.

But here I want to distinguish between "nationwide" and "universal" injunctions (thanks to Tobias Wolfe of Penn for the distinction); the latter term better captures the remedial problems. An injunction is, and should be, "nationwide" with respect to the named plaintiffs--the United States should be enforced against them anywhere in the country. And the "parties" in a class action properly covers everyone in the class. A universal injunction, by contrast, bars action by the defendant with respect to anyone, including non-parties. This is remedially problematic. The DACA injunction was universal--although only Texas and about 25 other states were parties, the injunction barred the United States from enforcing DACA in, and with respect to, non-party states, even those who would not oppose the benefits granted to undocumented persons within its borders.

Now it remains to be seen whether this case is properly brought as a class action (reports are there are about 100-200 people with the status of the plaintiffs in Darweesh. I expect the class question will await fuller litigation, assuming the relevant agencies do not release the people affected. The point is that the "nationwide" label thrown around in the press is too imprecise.

And, for what its worth, TRO's are issuing in other courts (including the District of the District of Columbia, Western District of Washington, and District of Massachusetts), suggesting that Judge Donnelly's temporary stay is not doing as much nationwide work as it might.

2) Josh Blackman has his usual thorough analysis of the procedural aspects. I do not think I agree that Judge Donnelly's order is ultra vires for not having performed the FRCP 23 analysis. In that short time, I am not sure the court could do more than acknowledge the class allegations in the motion and save them for fuller briefing. But to not allow the fullest TRO* would love potential class members subject to removal.

[*] Although not styled a TRO, this seem to me the functional equivalent--staying enforcement of the law for a finite number of days pending fuller briefing.

3) There are some interesting enforcement issues, as reports come that officials at airports are refusing to abide by the orders. Judge Donnelly included a paragraph order the Marshals to take all steps necessary to notify agents on the ground about the order. But that takes time.

4) As I wrote last weekend, I have no idea when public protest will be permitted and when law enforcement will crack down. The New York Times described the genesis and evolution of Saturday's protests at Kennedy Airport (which, famously, is a nonpublic forum), including crowds making sidewalks outside the terminal unpassable. And all without permits, pre-event negotiations, and explicit or implicit understandings. And yet there were no arrests and no efforts to disperse or remove the protesters. Same in the parking garages. At one point, Port Authority police blocked protesters from boarding the train linking the subway to the terminals, until Gov. Cuomo ordered them to stand down, which they did  only after a 15-minute delay.

5) There is a teaching moment here, apart from the substantive and procedural details of the controversy and the "this is why we need lawyers" narrative (since most of our students are never going to be on either side of such controversies). Reports are that this order was not vetted by the lawyers and policy experts at various agencies, including in the Office of Legal Counsel, but was thrown together by non-lawyer policy makers and some lawyers guiding them within the White House. So the teaching point is that lawyering matters and lawyering means care and precision and avoiding ambiguity and the chaos that ambiguity brings. And that is true not only as to major government orders that affect the entire world, but wills that affect an elderly widow.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 29, 2017 at 12:31 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sponsore Post: West Study Aids

The following post is by Anna Lawless-Collins, Associate Director for Systems and Collection Services at Boston University Law School, and is sponsored by West Academic.

The Fineman and Pappas Law Libraries at Boston University added the West Academic Study Aids Subscription in April 2016, just in time to help with end-of-year exams, and it was an immediate hit with our students. We went on a marketing blitz (aided by materials sent by West Academic) and set out table tents, posted flyers, added slides to the law school's slide show, blogged about it, and handed out materials at the circulation desk. We even wore buttons encouraging students to ask us about using the materials. Students told our library director, Ron Wheeler, that they find the online versions infinitely better than the print reserve materials - not least because they can use them anytime and anywhere. They don't have to worry about other students returning the materials late or the print versions going missing.

From the implementation end, we worked with the West Academic team to set up school branding on the page. Now, when students visit the page, it's clear that the library is providing access to the study aids. It also includes a "Most Popular at Your School" module that pulls real-time usage reports from our school. That, plus the "Recent Releases" module, shows students new and important content their peers are accessing. We are also using the free MARC record collection from OCLC to ensure discoverability in our catalog. We have had to do some tweaking to the records to make sure they are complete and to get the records to FRBRize with our print holdings, but that work is minimal when compared to the number of records we are adding with the monthly updates.

The platform initially was only accessible from the Westlaw home page, but recently moved to an independent platform with IP access. This allows students to browse the titles as a guest, but they still have the option to create their own account and sign in to their own account within the platform. If they do that, they can take notes, highlight passages, and keep track of important information in their own accounts. Students have told our Head of Access Services that this platform is the easiest to use of all our eBook platforms. The usability, good content, and new features being added (like audio lectures) has led to high usage. For Fall 2016, we saw our usage rise steadily over the semester, reaching a high of well over two thousand document views for the exam period in December.

The statistics themselves are very useful. We can see breakdowns by month, guest users by IP authentication, and unique visitors by month. We also get breakdowns showing which series are being used and how frequently, number of global searches, the top search terms, searches within books, and the top ten books searched. This gives us a good idea of what our students are looking for help with and we can use that to help guide our collections decisions in other areas.

The Study Aids Subscription from West Academic has been a great investment for us. It's helped our students access materials more easily during stressful times, it's eased the burden on our print reserves collection, and it's created an enormous amount of goodwill for the library.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 16, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sponsored Announcements, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Silence in the classroom

As we all start spring classes, I want to share an observation about the value of silence in the classroom. I am interactive with my students, even in my large class (Business Entities). One of the most fruitful questions I ask myself as I do my class prep is, "What questions would make a bright student who has done the reading think a bit before replying?" Those questions add particular value to the class experience because they're not something the students will get just by a careful reading of the assignment. They actually have to go to class to get that value. In turn, I feel an obligation to make the class time valuable to the students by asking questions that do more than reinforce a basic understanding of the reading.

But a necessary consequence of asking questions of that kind is that students pause before replying. Frequently they start a sentence then stop. All of that involves what can seem like considerable silence in the classroom. While the students are wrestling with a question, they are also dealing with the dynamic of silence.

I am explicit with the students about this, telling them on the first day, and usually giving them a reminder later in the semester, that silence is a good thing in this context. That, in fact, it's a way to know whether I'm doing the job I'm supposed to be doing (i.e., doing more than just assigning pages and explaining what they've already read). Still, the silence itself has a tendency to unsettle some students.

If you're looking for a new technique for class or for class prep, I recommend finding questions that are just one step past what the students would think of on their own. The silence really is golden, but be aware that you may want to be open with your students about the value of silence.

Posted by Eric Chiappinelli on January 10, 2017 at 10:43 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

MarkelFest! at AALS on Wednesday (Moved to Top)

We will continue a PrawfsBlawg tradition with another MarkelFest! Happy Hour at the AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco. It will be at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, January 4, at Romper Room, 25 Maiden Lane in Union Square; go to the private room upstairs, called the Leopard Lounge (buy drinks at the bar downstairs). The bar is about a 10-minute walk from the Hilton (walk up O'Farrell, left on Grant, right on Maiden Lane).

Please spread the word. And come join us for drinks and conversation. See you all there.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 3, 2017 at 03:01 PM in Blogging, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sponsored Post: Experiencing Trusts and Estates

The following guest post is by Deborah Gordon (Drexel) and Alfred Brophy (UNC), sponsored by West Academic.

We’re delighted to have the chance to talk about a casebook that we have forthcoming from West Academic in its Experiencing Series.  The key idea behind the books in the Experiencing Series is to incorporate more experiential lessons than the typical casebook.  While seemingly all casebooks are making that move these days, trusts and estates lends itself to this approach in particular.  We are building on the really terrific teaching materials that have been out for decades now in trusts and estates by keeping many of the well-known cases and building out more documents and some of the key issues that students who will be in small firms will likely face on a regular basis.

We start Experiencing Trusts and Estates with planning for the physical act of death -- that is, planning for durable powers for attorney for health care and for financial matters.  We introduce right up front those very basic documents, and the statutes that govern them, to give students a sense of what those documents look like, how they can prepare them using statutory precedents, and some of the problems that attend (particularly) durable powers of attorney for financial matters.  Then we introduce the basics of the estate and gift tax regime and the basics of the probate process.  All this material gives students a 360-degree view of the field and gets them ready for lessons in the drafting and execution of wills and trusts.  Our focus is to introduce students to planning documents and to see how those documents (like spendthrift trusts) are written and interpreted.  One of our hopes is that this approach prepares students with the vocabulary and the basic understanding of how documents relate to the more esoteric wills and trust doctrines that they’re learning about.  And to make things a little more entertaining, we draw a lot of examples from “wills of the stars” -- from George Washington to Elvis, Michael Jackson, Katherine Hepburn, and Whitney Houston. Experiencing Trusts and Estates will be published this spring and available for fall 2017 classes.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 30, 2016 at 09:31 AM in Blogging, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Northwestern Law Review exclusive submissions

Northwestern University Law Review has instituted a system of exclusive submissions for the upcoming cycle. Authors can submit exclusively until January 28 and will receive a response by February 17. It is a good way to get a jump on the submissions cycle. Full details on submissions here.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 28, 2016 at 10:58 AM in Howard Wasserman, Law Review Review, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, December 09, 2016

Professor Michael L. Rich

Michael L. Rich of Elon law passed away Wednesday, after a several-years illness. Michael was a guest prawf in April of this year and wrote movingly about his experiences and challenges balancing his prawf life with a terminal illness.

Our thoughts and prayers go to his family, friends (in and out of the legal academy), and Elon colleagues.

(Thanks to Eric Chaffee (Toledo) for sharing the news).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 9, 2016 at 10:03 AM in Blogging, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, November 07, 2016

Best writing practices

Hi all, it’s good to be back at Prawfs for another guest stint. I’ve written for this site more times than I can count, but this is my first time guesting as a Texan, having just joined the faculty of the University of Houston Law Center, where I’m also serving as research dean.

In that latter capacity, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to encourage productivity both for others and for myself, and this has led to some reflection on best practices for optimal writing. I’ve found that working on scholarship is the easiest part of the job to put off. Teaching and service typically happen on regular, no-exceptions schedules—classes and meetings require your presence and start and end at specific times—while writing can almost always be delayed until some theoretical future time of idealized productivity.

So in this initial post, I’ll share three of the leading suggestions I’ve read about how to maximize writing productivity based on my admittedly casual perusals of the surprisingly vast literature on this topic (the existence of which leads me to believe I’m not alone in often finding it challenging to stay on-task with respect to writing). The question I’m most interested in is whether these general best practices for writing translate into good practices for legal scholars, and/or whether there are other techniques folks have found helpful.

All this follows after the break.

First: write early. Whether there is an ideal time during the day to write is to some extent idiosyncratic. Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway were morning people who cranked out the words when they got up and finished by afternoon. Robert Frost and Hunter S. Thompson were nightowls who got their best work done later in the day. But there is some evidence that most people are best served by writing earlier on, particularly soon after waking up. For one thing, to the extent that writing requires mental focus and will power, those qualities are at their peak earlier in the day, especially the morning before other tasks and distractions have the chance to sap our energy and attention. Neuropsychologists have also found that the part of the brain associated with creative activity—the prefrontal cortex—tends to be the most active earlier in the day, so that if you’re thinking through issues or working out a particularly difficult conceptual problem, you’re more likely to succeed after your morning coffee than your evening dinner.

Second: write regularly. Whether you get your best work done in the dark of the earliest morning or of deepest midnight, one universal nearly all productive writers agree on is: find a pattern you like and stick to it. Part of this is about efficiency. Making writing a regular part of your life makes it increasingly likely that you’ll actually write, turning it into an expected and standard part of your day rather than something you have to spend time and effort making time for. But there’s also the related point that writing regularly makes what can be a challenging task easier. Haruki Marukami unsurprisingly put this much more eloquently than I could in describing his own routine: “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s an act of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

Third: write often. One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from the late, great Roger Ebert, who said something along the lines of “I’ve developed a reputation as the fastest writer in town. But I’m don’t write faster than others. I just spend less time not writing.” This is certainly closely related to having a regular schedule (if you commit to writing every day, you’ll likely be writing more often just by virtue of committing to doing so on a daily basis). And this one rings true to me for intuitive reasons. The analogy seems that writing is like a muscle. Exercise it frequently and it gets stronger. Fail to do so and it atrophies.

The question for this audience is: Do these notions, most of which come from looking at novelists or essayists, hold true for legal and/or academic writers as well (I’m not sure that Marukami’s self-mesmerism is something that would be helpful in writing scholarship)? There are a number of potential distinctions: scholarship requires research and entails a different sort of creativity (persuasive argument as opposed to something more akin to pure creativity). And since writing is only part of the professor’s job, is it reasonable to expect to have a regular writing schedule given the need to prioritize students and the competing demands of service? Or does that mean that picking and insisting on a schedule is all the more important?

Finally, consider one alternative approach I’ve observed in some colleagues, which I’ll call the binge-writing model. The notion here is that given the inherent disorder of the academic schedule, it’s not really possible to write regularly, and perhaps not even that effective. I have colleagues who sincerely believe that writing is best in concentrated marathon chunks when blocks of time open up (or if they don’t, in a mad series of sleepless nights). The idea, I suppose, is that this kind of fugue-based approach produces more interesting and coherent work than plodding along gradually, adding a bit at a time.

Again, it’s good to be back and Prawfs and I look forward to thoughts on these or any other best writing practices.

DF

Posted by Dave_Fagundes on November 7, 2016 at 11:29 AM in Life of Law Schools, Science, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (7)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Letters of recommendation

I come from a family that overwhelmingly worked in blue-collar jobs. Growing up, my father was a stagehand and my mother was a homemaker. In addition, very few members of my (large) extended family went to college. Having grown up without a lot of professional mentors myself, I've since worked to seek them out. Now that I'm a law professor, one of my favorite aspects of the job is the opportunity to mentor students. Maybe that's why I consider helping students find jobs to be part of my own job description.

One of my colleagues recently asked me if I would write a letter of recommendation for a student that did above average in two of my classes (i.e. A-, B+) but was in the bottom third of the graduating class. He seemed surprised when I responded that I am willing to write a letter of recommendation for any student. I'm curious to know if I am the outlier. Would you write a letter for the student so-described? Some further thoughts on my own approach after the break.

When a student asks me for a letter of recommendation, I invite them to meet with me to discuss their career goals. I find that these meetings help me get to know the student a bit better and often provides useful color for my letters. It also affords me the opportunity to ask students to name three qualities about themselves that they would like me to comment and to discuss the possible basis for these comments. For example, if they'd like me to comment on how bright they are, perhaps they'll note that they received a very high grade in my course. Or if they want me to comment on their public speaking, they'll remind me that they served as a group spokesperson during some of our in-class exercises. To my mind, this discussion serves multiple purposes. Particularly for my 1Ls, it is a continuation of our work in class, where I constantly seek to teach them to connect facts to law to reach legal conclusions. It also helps me flesh out the substance of my letter. Finally, it helps to set expectations about what I can and cannot say. I do make clear to students that they should consider whether I'm the best person to write a letter for them based on our prior interactions, their performance in my class, and the their other alternatives. But if I'm the best they've got, I work to write them the best letter I feel comfortable with.

My colleague worried that he would debase the value of his other recommendations by writing a letter for any student that asks. As a result, he said that he refuses to write anything other than letter of unqualified praise. By contrast, I think that there are always positive attributes that I can comment on and I believe that even our weakest students deserve my help to get a job. Apparently, I'm more willing to write a broader range of recommendation letters from those providing "the strongest possible recommendation" all the way to encouraging the employer to "consider" the applicant.

What do you think? Am I failing to adequately safeguard my reputation?

 

Posted by Matthew Bruckner on September 27, 2016 at 02:10 PM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law, Things You Oughta Know if You Teach X | Permalink | Comments (7)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Submitting to online journals

Courtesy of University of Illinois Law Review, her is a new ranking of online journals, along with links to the submission pages for each. Here is the list, including hyperlinks, from SSRN.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 25, 2016 at 02:59 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law Review Review, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Election Day and law schools

The following comes from Beau Tremitiere, a 3L at Northwestern-Pritzker School of Law, the EIC of the Law Review, and the organizer of the Election RAVE Campaign. Administrators, faculty, and/or students interested in finding out more can contact Beau at (beau.tremitiere@nlaw.northwestern.edu). Thanks to Friend-of-Prawfs Jim Pfander for passing this along.

Law faculty may want to know about a burgeoning nonpartisan national movement, the Election RAVE Campaign, which encourages law students to participate on election day in the 2016 Presidential Election. Northwestern Law has cancelled all classes for this purpose, and at least five other law schools have taken the day off. Many others are encouraging professors to reschedule election-day classes individually. By encouraging students to spend the day volunteering at the polls, law faculty can provide an enriching learning experience, reaffirm our profession’s commitment to public service, and significantly reduce the risk that voter suppression, intimidation, tampering, and honest mistakes will disenfranchise large swaths of voters.

 

We believe active participation in our elections should be part of American legal education, offering experiential learning to enrich the classroom discourse and contextualize abstract concepts. Moreover, active engagement may enable law schools to satisfy their institutional commitment to public service. By dispatching volunteers into our local communities to assist elderly, ESL, and otherwise at-risk voters, we can improve our schools’ standing within a sometimes skeptical public. Finally, your students could be the difference between a free, fair, and peaceful election and one that further entrenches distrust and conflict. Law students offer problem-solving skills and familiarity with technology that can shorten wait times and prevent honest administrative errors; in many instances, their mere presence can deter would-be troublemakers.

 

We recognize that rescheduling class is an inconvenience, but among your students are future professors, deans, judges, legislators, and governors. By rescheduling one day of class and encouraging your students to be active civic agents, you can empower, inform, and inspire this next generation of legal, intellectual, and political leaders.

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 21, 2016 at 06:22 PM in Law and Politics, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Aargh, avast yee, ATS plaintiffs

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Unfortunately, I did not find that out until late today. Because this morning in Fed Courts, I taught the Alien Tort Statute and Sosa, which identified piracy as one of the acts that could be the basis for an ATS claim. The confluence would have been perfect. And, like Thanksgivukkah, the opportunity will not come around again for years.

Oh, well.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 19, 2016 at 04:06 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Supreme Court Fellows Program – Call for Applications

The Supreme Court Fellows Commission is accepting applications through November 4, 2016, for one-year fellowships to begin in August or September 2017.  The Commission will select four talented individuals to engage in the work of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, the Federal Judicial Center, or the United States Sentencing Commission.  Fellows gain practical exposure to judicial administration, policy development, and education.  In each of the four placements, the Fellow will be expected to produce a publishable paper and will have unique access to federal judges, and to officers and staff of the federal judiciary, in connection with the research project. 

The Commission is especially seeking applicants who are completing or have recently completed a judicial clerkship, and are interested in pursuing an academic career or a career in public service.  Fellows will receive compensation equivalent to the GS-13/1 grade and step of the government pay scale (currently $92,145) and will be eligible for health insurance and other benefits offered to employees of the federal judiciary.  Appointments are full-time and based in Washington, D.C.  A small group of finalists will be invited to interview with the Commission at the Supreme Court in February 2017, and finalists will be contacted on selection decisions within one to two weeks after interviews.

Further information and the online application are available on the Supreme Court’s website.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 19, 2016 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Some Resources for Grading

Given the article in the New York Times the other day and Prof. Preis’s Post, I want to share some observations about and resources for grading  from both a statistical and educational perspective.  First, it’s important to get on the table that there is a persistent and deep-seated misunderstanding that there is something “scientific” about assigning grades based on a “bell curve”  or “normal curve.” Neither concept is relevant to the actual scores law students receive on exams.  An equally problematic misconception is that just because you can put things in rank order means you know the interval between them.   Imagine an A,B,C, and D. grading scale.  If the top five scores on an exam are 99 and there are only five A’s, then the first student getting a B (student number 6) could have scored 98.  

  How much less does student number 6 know the material than students number 1-5?   Hard to tell without a lot more information.  But what if the top five A’s were 98, 90, 85, 72, 70 and the first B a 65.  Would you feel comfortable that the two “B” students probably had the same level of competence?   Remember how little we like rank order when it comes to ranking colleges.

The whole concept of a comparative grading scheme rather than measuring against external measures of success is problematic. Imagine the catastrophic results if the Navy did this with pilots who land on aircraft carriers—advanced students through training by comparing their skills to the group rather than to objective criteria of generally agreed upon success.   (they don’t). Sometimes students (and faculty) point to curving grades as protecting students from variations between classes in that it guarantees that some students will get A’s and B’s and that not everyone will get an F. But comparative grading also can mean that until the bar exam, it can be hard for the student (and for us) to  assess how much "torts" or "contracts" he or she really knows.   

Also, looking back to yesterday,  by artificially limiting high grades, we run the risk of discouraging students who really are achieving at levels very similar to their peers with higher grades but who may drop back from intensive study once they realize that they will always be at the middle of the pack.

What to do? Well, first of all, it’s helpful to remember that there is an entire  literature devoted to grading.  Second, it's likely that the focus on learning outcomes is going to be very helpful here because a core concept is that before you can effectively assign grades, you have to know what you want to measure. 

And however you grade, you don't do have to do it by hand.   Look here, here, and for some ideas about using Blackboard and Excel here and here and a video here.

 

Posted by Jennifer Bard on September 14, 2016 at 04:25 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Learning from Some Great Educators--President Freeman Hraboski

One of the things I learned on the way to getting a Ph.D. in higher education is that very little research on how college and graduate students learn ever makes its way into law schools. And almost no one does large scale, generalizable research on law school learning—probably because there isn’t any money to fund it. In law, at best, we now have schools studying their own students retrospectively to identify factors that might correlate with bar success or high grades--but these studies tell us nothing about what we could be doing differently or better in the classroom.  And yet law schools are changing how we teach.  

My neighbor up the road, Prof. Deborah Merritt  of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, recently proposed some explanations for the slight rise in MBE scores after a period of steady decline, one of which was "improved preparation." And by that she didn't just mean direct bar preparation but changes in teaching methods that involved more feed-back and more frequent assessment.  This change  is an example of using research on effective learning done in other areas of higher education and applying it to law. 

To start the discussion, I'd like to share the work of a visionary educator, Dr. Freeman Hraboski, President of University of Maryland, Baltimore County whose institution sends more African American men to medical school than any other college in the countryThis TED talk reflects how he is using the research generated by one of the most generously funded topics in education today, increasing the number of students who succeed in STEM fields.  See here, here, and more accessibly, here.  This is antithetical to many STEM fields which pride themselves in weeding out, not encouraging, students.  There may well be some things for us to learn as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Jennifer Bard on September 13, 2016 at 06:22 PM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink

Friday, September 09, 2016

Commitment to furthering social change

A friend at another law school shared the following (the story is made anonymous, and non-gender-specific, for the benefit of all parties):

My friend wrote an empirical article, concluding that the data did not support removing military commanders from the courts-martial system in sexual assault cases. She/he submitted it to a law-and-social-policy/social-change journal at a t20 school. The journal rejected it, writing the following: "Our editors felt that your piece provided interesting data analysis; however, we do not feel that your framing of the issue and your ultimate conclusion align with our journal's commitment to furthering social change."

This is a staggering thing for an academic journal to say out loud, even if many people believe such biases exist in publication decisions, in law and other disciplines. It is more staggering for an empirical article. If editors disagree with an author's conclusions in a normative or theoretical piece and reject it on that basis, that is troubling, although separating evaluations of quality from agreement with the conclusion is a difficult intellectual exercise. To reject an article because the conclusions from the empirical data do not "align" with a commitment to "furthering social change"--while not questioning or challenging either the data or the data analysis--is nakedly anti-intellectual. Not to mention counter-productive: If you are committed to furthering social change in the area of military sexual assault, wouldn't you want to rely on data that helps identify the best solution to the problem and directs you away from solutions (pulling commanders from the process) that will not resolve the problem? (This problem is not limited to law, but extends to the hard sciences).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 9, 2016 at 02:06 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law Review Review, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (20)

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Assigning videos for class?

This semester, I'm teaching a seminar on consumer financial law. It's my first time teaching this topic and my first time teaching a paper-based seminar. Adam Levitin was gracious enough to let my class use a draft version of his textbook. And both Adam and Susan Block-Lieb, who also uses his casebook, shared some of their notes and slides with me. Yet, I still spend an enormous amount of time preparing for this class. After all, while it's relatively easy to figure out what I want students to learn, it's much more challenging to figure out how best to present the material so that they will learn it.

Some folks who teach consumer law have made use of a series of medium-length videos by John Oliver. I've been thinking of doing so too. I'm also considering assigning a ~40 min film called Spent. My gut reaction is that it's likely to be more effective than assigning additional reading, if purely for the novelty of it. The only variety I had in assignments when I was a student was being asked to read books vs. law review articles vs. cases.

But, in addition to highlighting these resources through this post, I'm also curious for feedback. While I've assigned podcasts, I've never assigned movies. Do folks have any experience in doing so? Is it well received by students? Do you find videos to be more (or less) effective than assigning reading?

 

Posted by Matthew Bruckner on September 6, 2016 at 09:58 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Too politically charged?

The Second Circuit last week decided Sokolow v. PLO, holding that a federal court in the United States lacked personal jurisdiction over the PLO and Palestinian Authority in an action brought by a number of U.S. citizens and their family members, arising from some terrorist attacks in Israel. The case contains good analysis of both the new general-jurisdiction analysis after Daimler and the new effects test after Walden.

This would be the type of case I would use for a subject essay on personal jurisdiction in Civ Pro. But is the underlying subject matter too hot and too controversial? Will people who feel strongly about either (or both) sides of this debate find the subject too painful, hurtful, etc.? Will I be seen as insensitive to one (or both sides)? Is this likely to get a reaction similar to the First Amendment exam question about whether Michael Brown's stepfather could be successfully prosecuted for incitement?

As I think I have written before, I like using real-world cases/problems for exams and essays. And I like questions that force students to look past their political preferences to see and explore the legal issues in a case--one's political views about Israel and the Israel-Palestine conflict should be irrelevant to whether the PLO is "essentially at home" in New York. But in this case, am I asking for trouble?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 6, 2016 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (9)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Guerilla Guides to Law Teaching

Guerilla Guides to Law Teaching is a new web-based course resource for incorporating social movements into law-school classes. It is produced by Amna Akbar (Ohio State), Sameer Ashar (UC-Irvine), Bill Quigley (Loyola-NO), and Jocelyn Simonson (Brooklyn). Here are the Four Principles for using this material in teaching.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 30, 2016 at 04:02 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Defining terms and the U of C letter

Some of the problem surrounding the U of C letter is that we do not or cannot agree on terms. A commenter on my prior post on this argues that we are conflating content warnings with trigger warnings, because much of what we warn about is not actually "triggering" for trauma victims. An interesting point. Although i wonder if, at some level, we are quibbling semantics--the point comes to whether we must warn about something and whether that warning comes with some form of opt-out.

At Balkinization, Mark Graber posts a letter from a music professor at the University of Georgia (who happens to share his last name) arguing that intellectual safe spaces are essential to allow students to "speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn." But the letter defines safe spaces as ones in which students can present their ideas--even wrong or half-baked ones--without fear of reprisal from colleagues or professors. I agree with this conception. Of course, that is not what "safe space" has come to mean on campus and, at least I do not believe, it was not the conception the U of C letter was challenging or the conception that has been at the heart of most campus speech disputes.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 27, 2016 at 02:55 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (20)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

More on the University Chicago letter

A few additional points to Rick's post, on the letter from the University of Chicago on trigger warnings and safe spaces.

First, as I said in a comment on Rick's post, I always have understood trigger warnings as featuring an opt-out on top of the warning: "This is what this material is like and if you need to absent yourself from this material, you may." Consider this example of a content warning, from Angus Johnston, a history prof CUNY who took to Twitter to criticize UC:

At times this semester we will be discussing historical events that may be disturbing, even traumatizing, to some students. If you suspect that specific material is likely to be emotionally challenging for you, I’d be happy to discuss any concerns you may have before the subject comes up in class. Likewise, if you ever wish to discuss your personal reactions to course material with the class or with me individually afterwards, I welcome such discussions as an appropriate part of our classwork.

If you ever feel the need to step outside during a class discussion you may always do so without academic penalty. You will, however, be responsible for any material you miss. If you do leave the room for a significant time, please make arrangements to get notes from another student or see me individually to discuss the situation.

Like Rick, I have on occasion included a light heads-up on assignments (e.g., "This is a sexual harassment case and involves sexually explicit conduct"). I have never considered offering an opt-out. Interestingly, Johnston explains that he originally drafted the warning in reverse--the opt-out first and invitation to discuss second; he switched to lead with the discussion because it "centers dialogue — before, during, or after class — as central to the academic project."

Second, Johnston and The New Republic argued that the letter violates the academic freedom of those professors who wish to provide trigger warnings. This seems to me to over-read the letter. I read it as stating that the university would not provide official trigger warnings in its own programs and activities (e.g., no trigger warning when a controversial speaker comes to campus); that it would not officially designate campus spaces as "safe spaces" (e.g., the dorm is not a space where you are free of offense from what someone else says or has in his dorm room) (Kevin Drum agrees); and that it would not make trigger warnings official university policy. But the letter said nothing about what individual professors could, could not, or must do. A university spokesperson confirmed that "professors maintain broad latitude to engage in teaching practices as they see fit or to accommodate student requests."

This was not good enough for TNR; it insisted that the fact that trigger warnings are not banned "doesn’t get at the problem: the University administration is clearly making a stance on a pedagogical decision that has traditionally been left up to professors. That in itself constitutes a chilling effect and breach of academic freedom." But that is nonsense. A university can--and arguably should or even must--take a stance on many things, including pedagogy, without offending academic freedom. Academic freedom only demands that the university not prohibit or punish any professors who disagree or reject that stance. So academic freedom means the university should not fire the professor who writes a book denying the Shoah; it does not mean the university cannot make public statements that the professor is an idiot. Similarly, academic freedom means the university should not fire a professor for giving his students trigger warnings and opt-outs; it does not mean the university cannot make public statements rejecting trigger warnings as inconsistent with robust, free, and mature debate.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 25, 2016 at 09:46 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (11)

Monday, August 15, 2016

9th Junior Faculty Federal Courts Workshops

Emory University School of Law School will host the Ninth Annual Junior Faculty Federal Courts  Workshop on March 31-April 1, 2017.  The workshop pairs a senior scholar with a panel of junior scholars presenting works-in-progress.  The workshop is open to untenured and recently tenured academics who teach and write in federal courts, civil rights litigation, civil procedure, and other associated topics. Those who do not currently hold a faculty appointment but expect to do so beginning in fall 2017 are welcome. The program is also open to scholars wanting to attend, read, and comment on papers but not present.  There is no registration fee. The conference will begin with a dinner on Friday March 31; panels will take place on Saturday, April 1. Each panel will consist of approximately 4 junior scholars, with a senior scholar serving as moderator and commenter and leading a group discussion on the papers.  Emory Law will provide all lunches and dinners for those attending the workshop, but attendees must cover their own travel and lodging costs. Those wishing to present a paper must submit an abstract to federalcourtsworkshop2017@gmail.com by November 1, 2016. Papers will be selected by a committee of past participants, and presenters will be notified by early January. Those planning to attend must register by February 20, 2017.
 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 15, 2016 at 09:31 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

More on names

Shima sparked a conversation over how prawfs and students should address one another. I want to explore a different issue of student names.

At SEALS last week, a co-panelist told a story relayed of a female law professor who had twice been the subject of formal administrative complaints by students whose (first) names the prof had mispronounced in class.  In the discussion that followed, some panelists recognized the concern that mispronouncing the name can send a message of exclusion or otherness, while others suggested that this provided another good reason to use last names in class (hence the connection to Shima's post).

This story unnerved me, although I recognize that there may be more to it. I am troubled that students are so suspicious and so ready to assume the worst of what was presumptively an innocent mistake that the professor (hopefully) handled with some tact. I am troubled because, if mispronouncing a name does send a message of exclusion, there is not much I can do about it; any attempt to avoid mispronouncing would send that same message of "you have a funny name." Ask the student if I am not sure? "You did not ask Jim how to pronounce his name." Ask for phonetic spellings? "You didn't need Jim's phonetic spelling." Get phonetic spellings in advance? That does not help me during the first class. Use last names? I am not sure they are so much easier to pronounce (I began using first names in part because I thought it would minimize pronunciation problems).

As I said, I hope there is more to this story than the sparse details I heard.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 13, 2016 at 11:15 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (21)

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Practice your talks--with dogs

One of the worst parts of attending conferences, workshops, etc., is sitting through the obviously unprepared presentation. Speakers meander, repeat themselves, run over time, race through the final points because they wasted too much time getting started, etc.* There is a tough balance to strike. You do not want to sound overly rehearsed or as if you are reading the paper (although that is the norm in many fields, such as English). But you want to be coherent and stay within the time limits. And that requires that you practice the talk with a timer and tweak as you must.**

[*] Not for nothing, I find these problems--especially the last two--exacerbated when the speaker uses PowerPoint.

[**] This is especially true for job talks, but it applies to any presentation.

So I liked this story about a program at American University's Kogod Center for Business Communications, which provides dogs as an audience for students (especially those anxious about public speaking) to practice presentations. The dogs have a calming influence; the students practice before a non-judgmental audience; and the students have to work a bit to keep the audience attention (the director of the study says a dog is no more distracted than the typical college student, which might not be untrue). The accompanying video is after the jump.

My dog better be ready to sit through some talks in the coming years.

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 9, 2016 at 12:20 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Oral Arguments for Law Students

I will sometimes – not often, maybe once a semester, if that – play a couple of minutes of oral argument from the Supreme Court for my students if they are particularly enlightening.  For example, I have played portions of the argument in the recent Facebook threat case, Elonis v. U.S., in Criminal Law in order to put a spotlight on how the Court decides on what mental state requirement it will impute to a statute when the statute is silent.  Particularly helpful is Justice Kagan’s ticking off of the Model Penal Code’s taxonomy of mental states, just as the students are being introduced to this taxonomy in class.  In my death penalty seminar, I recently had the students do moot courts of two pending cases, and then in subsequent classes we listened to the actual arguments.  This was particularly helpful because students were by then intimately familiar with the issues in the case and had read the briefs.

It occurred to me recently that we ought to encourage, or perhaps even require, our students to listen to full oral arguments outside of class.  For students who are still under the mis-impression that law school is about learning the law as opposed to learning to think like a lawyer, listening to arguments is a helpful reminder that the law is largely indeterminate and in flux, and that good advocacy skills are essential to the practice of law.

I would even strongly suggest that students listen to a few oral arguments before starting law school in the fall.  After all, the back-and-forth between judge and advocate is strikingly similar to the back-and-forth between professor and student.  Listening to oral arguments will prepare students for what law school is really all about.  It may also teach students to avoid some of the common pitfalls for students, which are often reflected in poor advocacy, such as dodging the question and fighting the hypo.

While most of our students will never make it to the Supreme Court, I think there is a value to having them listen to arguments from that Court rather than some other court.  First, the recordings are easily available.  Second, the arguments in the Supreme Court are much more likely to cut to the heart of an issue, whereas arguments in lower courts can get bogged down in jurisdictional, procedural, or factual issues that are less interesting and accessible for future lawyers.  Third, the students are more likely to be familiar with the issues in Supreme Court cases without having read the briefs.  Finally, and most importantly, the issues that arise in Supreme Court cases, of course, are not peculiar to Supreme Court cases.  The same issue might arise in scores of lower court cases that, for one reason or another, never make it to the Supreme Court.

Posted by Michael J.Z. Mannheimer on July 27, 2016 at 10:12 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (10)