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 (0)

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)

Friday, July 15, 2016

SSRN postings and copyright

The following was sent by Stephen Henderson (Oklahoma) to the Law Prof Listserv; it is reposted here with his permission. It is one experience and could be unique, but it presents something to watch for.

It appears that the corporate takeover of SSRN is already having a real impact.

When I posted a final PDF of an article for which not only do my co-author and I retain the copyright, but for which the contract also includes _explicit_ permission to post on SSRN, I received the typical happy “SSRN Revision Email” saying all was well.  Only when I went to take a look, I found there was no longer any PDF to download at all—merely the abstract.  So, download counts are gone, and no article.  Not the former working version nor the final version.  And then in the revision comments, I found this:

It appears that you do not retain copyright to the paper, and the PDF has been removed from public view. Please provide us with the copyright holder's written permission to post. Alternatively, you may replace this version with a working paper or preprint version, if you so desire. Questions and/or written permissions may be emailed to support@ssrn.com, or call 1-877-SSRNHELP (877-777-6435 toll free) or 1-585-442-8170 outside the US.

So, not only have they completely changed their model, but—at least to me—they gave no effective notice, and they pull papers without asking.  Nobody bothered to _ask_ whether I had permission; they simply took down every version of the article and said nothing.  Alas.  And when I called customer support and someone called back, I pointed out that some profs have hundreds of articles posted for which SSRN doesn’t hold the copyright agreements.  “Are you going to take all those down too?,” I asked.  The answer, in essence, “Those were posted in error.”  Unbelievable.

Of course, for years they have insisted on maintaining “citation counts” for legal papers despite knowing their algorithms don’t work for papers with footnotes as opposed to endnotes.  So, I suppose one should not expect much.  But this is new and much worse.  So, be wary, and long live Bepress Digital Commons!

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 15, 2016 at 01:16 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (27)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Professor Patricia Leary

Inside Higher Ed and ATL report that Patricia Leary of Whittier Law School wrote the now-famous Black Lives Matter letter.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 12, 2016 at 04:14 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (13)

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Law professor responds to students on "Black Lives Matter" (Updated)

Update, July 10: As noted in the comments, the response states that the professor wore the t-shirt on the day the Crim Pro class discussed police violence against the Black community. But that leads me to a curriculum question: How many of you cover police violence (or, more broadly, Fourth Amendment/excessive force) in crim pro? This seems an odd fit in a course that typically focuses on how police conduct affects subsequent prosecution and the evidence that can be used in that prosecution. I think of excessive force (aside from physically coercing confessions, which has not been BLM's focus) not as a matter of the lawfulness of a search or seizure for evidentiary purposes, but only for subsequent civil damages suits.

Original Post:

This letter by an unknown crim law professor at an unknown law school responding to an anonymous student complaint about the prof wearing a "Black Lives Matter" t-shirt to class is making the rounds and drawing raves in the left-leaning interwebs, as well as Facebook accounts of law profs.

I post it and welcome responses comments. I have not yet figured out what I think.

On one hand, the substantive defense of BLM as a name and a movement is spot-on, especially the idea of focus v. exclusion. So is the defense of the opinion, philosophy, and social context involved in creating, and thus teaching, "law." The student letter is poorly written nonsense, trafficking in "freedom from speech" tropes ("alienates and isolates," etc.).

On the other, the letter comes across as pedantic (especially Part II, where she picks apart the structure of the letter).*

[*] I agree with most of her arguments, especially about the use of CAPS. It is gratuitous in a debate.

I cannot get past wearing a t-shirt (to say nothing of a politically charged one, which seems intentionally provocative) to class.** The professor's argument either means it would be permissible for me to wear a t-shirt with a Confederate flag or an IDF logo to class (a position I doubt the professor would endorse) or that the freedom-of-thought-in-the-classroom ideal is limited only to ideas with which this professor agrees. Finally, I cannot help thinking that something else is going on. Is this really about the t-shirt alone? Is the t-shirt alone the "indoctrination or personal opinions" while the class content was focused on the elements of murder, or whatever? Or is the t-shirt reflective of the broader approach to teaching crim law? This does not make the students' arguments any better, but it would make the stuff about BLM, in the original letter and the response, beside the point.

[**] I have written before aboutpolitical signs and messages in faculty offices, which raises similar issues.

Again, I do not know what I think. But I would like to hear from others.

Update: A commenter notes that the letter identifies one time when the professor wore the shirt "around campus." That being so, I take back all of the above criticism of the professor. The student letter becomes even more inane--the professor wearing that shirt, outside of the classroom, does not impose a personal opinion on them or undermine their learning of the law.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 9, 2016 at 06:59 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (26)

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Learning About Gender Identity

As transgender people have gained more visibility over the past couple of years, many of us have had to consider what it means to be transgender for the first time. Understanding what it means to be transgender is important for unpacking the legal issues confronting transgender individuals, but, as educators, being knowledgeable about gender identity is also necessary to make sure we are serving our students. As a recent study by UCLA’s Williams Institute concludes, roughly 1.4 million adults in America are transgender, suggesting we are likely to have trans or gender nonconforming people in our classrooms.

So, while in future posts I will dive into some of the legal issues, I thought it might be useful at the outset to share some of things I’ve learned about gender identity.

First, a transgender person is someone whose sex assigned at birth (usually based on a quick exam of their external genitalia) does not accurately reflect their gender identity.

Second, we all have a gender identity, which simply refers to one’s personal sense of being a certain gender. People whose gender identity comports with their sex assigned at birth are referred to as “cisgender.”

Third, sex and gender are not as straightforward as the boxes we check, or even our external genitalia, might suggest. There are many aspects to sex. According to medical experts such as Dr. Deanna Adkins, “although we generally label infants as ‘male’ or ‘female’ based on observing their external genitalia at birth, external genitalia do not account for the full spectrum of sex-related characteristics nor do they ‘determine’ one’s sex. Instead, sex related characteristics include external genitalia, internal reproductive organs, gender identity, chromosomes, secondary sex characteristics and genes. These sex-related characteristics do not always align as completely male or completely female in a single individual.”

Fourth, gender identity is increasingly understood as the principal determinant of sex.

Fifth, many people do not fit neatly into categories we love to create (such as male, female, trans or cisgender). Many people are simply gender nonconforming, which, according to one definition, “refers to the extent to which a person’s gender identity, role, or expression differs from the cultural norms prescribed for people of a particular sex.” Indeed, to a certain extent we are all gender nonconforming in particular ways—if we are a female with short hair, a male with skinny jeans, then we are cutting against the grain—we are not conforming with gender norms or stereotypes.

Sixth, one of the most important aspects of transgender health is socially transitioning. Yet socially transitioning is extremely difficult, and to be transgender also means being subject to higher rates of violence, suicide, poverty, discrimination, and incarceration, as detailed in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.  

Finally, given the significance of socially transitioning and our responsibility to our students as educators, to me at least, it is important that we do what we can to make trans students’ lives as smooth as possible, and reduce any feelings of isolation and despair they may be feeling. We should consider ways in which our teaching methods may be silencing or singling out trans students. Gabriel Arkles has put together a great list of suggestions for ways we can make our classrooms more inclusive for trans and gender nonconforming students. One simple thing that I’ve adopted from colleagues is instead of using the school’s attendance list, I circulate a sign-up sheet on the first day of class letting students provide me their name and preferred pronoun, which prevents me from using an inaccurate pronoun based on my perception of their gender or calling them a name they no longer prefer.

Thanks for reading; happy to discuss and learn about these issues with anyone further! I look forward to launching into some of the legal barriers facing trans folk in the coming weeks.

Posted by Scott Skinner-Thompson on July 7, 2016 at 06:36 PM in Culture, Gender, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (19)

Friday, June 03, 2016

Exclusive Submissions: FSU Law Review

The Florida State University Law Review will be conducting exclusive article reviews over the next few weeks. Any article submitted to the Law Review between now and June 15th will be evaluated for publication purposes by June 22nd.  By submitting an article the author agrees to immediately accept a publication offer with the Review should one be extended.  The author is not required to withdraw any article previously or contemporaneously submitted for consideration elsewhere.  However, the author may not accept an offer of publication from another journal  for any article submitted to the Law Review’s exclusive review process unless the Review indicates that the submitted article will not receive a publication offer. Author requests to further expedite the exclusive review process will be accommodated to the extent practicable. Any articles accepted through this exclusive review process will be published in the Review's third and fourth issues, which are slated for publication in summer of 2017.  

If you have an article you would like to submit, please e-mail Jazz Tomassetti a copy of the article and your CV at  jazztomassetti@gmail.com with the subject line "Exclusive Article Review." We look forward to reading your submissions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 3, 2016 at 01:29 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Adding Civil Procedure to the Bar Exam: A Squandered Opportunity to Understand the Impact of Admitting Students with Lower Indicators

The following post is by my colleague Louis Schulze, who runs FIU's Academic Excellence Program.

As is well known, Erica Moeser of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) famously stated that July 2014 bar takers were “less able” than students of the recent past. Equally famously, deans of many law schools objected to this comment, at the very least for its lack of tact. Commentators noted that other factors, such as the ExamSoft breakdown during the exam, could also have led to lower bar passage rates. The NCBE rejected this theory. When bar pass rates once again declined in 2015, the NCBE effectively doubled-down on its “less able” theory.

Last week, Judith Gunderson, Director of Testing at the NCBE, presented a plenary address at the annual conference of the Association of Academic Support Educators. Much of the address focused on rather pedestrian matters that would be well known even to the greenest of AASE members. Additionally, despite promising to allot 30 minutes of an hour-long talk for questions, that period was only a few minutes long (and even that brief period took us three minutes over the session’s end-time).

I was one of the lucky few able to pose a question. My query was this: “When adding Civil Procedure to the MBE, to what degree did the NCBE consider ‘cognitive load?’” Ms. Gunderson’s response was, basically, that Civil Procedure tested equally as well as the other subjects. But this answer demonstrated a troubling misunderstanding of cognitive load theory. Below the fold, I’ll briefly explain “cognitive load theory” and how the NCBE’s possible unawareness of the subject renders us once again less able to draw conclusions from the recent decline in bar passage rates.

Cognitive load states that working memory has the capacity only to hold a certain amount of information at one time. Because that capacity is limited, the possibility of overload exists, and this overload produces sub-optimal mental processing and, thus, learning. (Sweller, 1994).

One can think of cognitive load as similar to “bandwidth”; there’s only so much of it to go around. If an Internet service has 60 Gbs of bandwidth, and it is distributed over six devices, each device will work just fine if it takes up 10 Gbs. But, let’s say that you buy a new device that also takes up 10 Gbs of space. Well, now each device will perform below its optimum ability because 60 Gbs must be distributed over seven devices. Each device drops from 10 Gbs usage to 8.57 Gbs.

Similarly, if we add a seventh subject to an already taxing exam, we run the risk of undermining the performance on each subject. If the material learned in exam preparation hinders processing into long-term memory, this would lead to lower test scores across the board. Deflecting the question about cognitive load by saying that Civil Procedure tests equally well as other subjects, therefore, entirely misses the point. Just as each device in my analogy performs equally well, the problem is that each of them dipped in performance from 10 Gbs to 8.57. This is why Ms. Gunderson’s answer is troubling.

To be clear, my claim is not that adding Civil Procedure caused the plummeting bar passage rates. (In fact, my own personal opinion is that decreasing entrance indicators likely contributed significantly to this phenomenon). Instead, my claim is that the NCBE’s rolling out Civil Procedure concurrent with the plummeting passage rates scuttled an excellent opportunity to obtain clean data showing that lower incoming indicators likely caused the decreased passage rates. Just as the ExamSoft debacle muddied the analysis of the dropping passage rates in 2014, the addition of Civil Procedure similarly prevents legal education reformers from acquiring powerful data to support their important cause.

I acknowledge that the NCBE works tirelessly to produce a fair bar exam. The organization uses sophisticated statistical analyses and extensive vetting of questions to work towards this goal. Not considering cognitive load theory, however (if that is indeed what happened), was a critical mistake.

Truly, this was a squandered opportunity.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 3, 2016 at 01:28 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Veep, S5E6

More small developments as the season moves towards the inevitable vote in the House.

Selina must choose two failing banks to bail out and picks one of them because it is based in Illinois, a state she needs. The show still has her treating the House vote like a mini popular vote, with individual House members voting the state's interests rather than the party line.

Along those lines, Jonah's congressional campaign turns the corner when he begins criticizing the President and her poor performance. If he wins running on that platform, how might it affect his vote in the House? (Again, this is assuming he is running to become the new representative-elect for the next Congress). [Update: Jonah Ryan for Congress has a website]

Finally, we see the next step in Tom James' plan, as he is shown meeting with the Speaker of the House and the head of the lobbying firm Dan worked for (and for which James appeared to be shilling last week). Clearly James is trying to manipulate the House vote. But how? To formally get his name in the House election, he needs that faithless elector, but we do not know what has been happening with the electors. If James is trying to create a stalemate in the House as the way to become President, I go back to my original argument that he only acts as President until the House breaks that stalemate, so this seems a constitutionally unsuccessful move (and one I hope the show does not build the entire season around).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 30, 2016 at 09:31 AM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Elsevier purchases SSRN

Elsevier's press release is here. Matt Bodie is curious, Paul Gowder is outraged and looking to start-up a not-for-profit rival that will continue to be open-access for law and political science scholarship (similar not-for-profit services exist for hard sciences), and others are commenting.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 17, 2016 at 03:56 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another data point on computers in the classroom

The new study comes from West Point; it created three sections--one that could use any technology (laptops or tablets) to take notes, one that could use tablets to read course materials, and one that could use no technology. The study offers two new insights. First, using a laptop hurt better students (measured by ACT scores) than weaker students--students with high ACT scores who used computers performed worse than comparable students who did not use computers, while students with low ACT scores performed similarly whether they used computers or not. Second, there was no performance difference between those who used technology for notes and those who used it only for reading--both sections performed worse than the non-technology sections.

This last point is notable to me. In Civil Rights, where I assign raw cases, I allow students to use a tablet for their cases (and thus to get the supplemental treatise by ebook). I may have to rethink this.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 17, 2016 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Is Mrs. Palsgraf upset with Yeshiva University over the name of its law school?

A fair question in light of this.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 29, 2016 at 05:43 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Complete Junior Law Prawfs FAQs Series

It has been such a pleasure to guestblog at Prawfsblawg this month and to do this Junior Law Prawfs FAQs Series on how to become a voice in one's field. I have learned so much from your comments, your Twitter conversations, and your very thoughtful emails. I appreciate the time the PrawfsBlawg community has taken to crowdsource answers to these frequently asked questions. Based on the emails I've received from other junior (and aspiring) law professors, many others are also grateful.  

For ease of reference, here is the complete list of questions (with links) to the frequently asked questions we covered this month:

1. How Do I Become a Voice in My Field? (See Also: D Merritt, Going Meta on the Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ Series)

2. How Does My Research Fit Within the Types of Legal Scholarship?

3. Should I Say Write a Response to a Law Review Article (or Allow the Law Review to Solicit Responses to Mine)?

4. Is Publishing a Book Review in a Law Review Still a Worthwhile Pretenure Endeavor? (See Also: P Horwitz, Yes (With Caveats), Publishing a Book Review is Still a Worthwhile Endeavor for Untenured Law Professors)

5. How Do I Make Sense of Online Law Reviews?

6. How Do I Increase the Chance My Scholarship Will Be Read?

7. How Should I Respond to Requests to Read Draft Articles in My Field?

8. How Can I Increase In-Person Scholarly Interaction with Limited Resources?

9. Is Blogging Worth It? (See Also: M Froomkin, The Plural of Anecdote is "Blog"; O Kerr, Legal Academic Blogging and Influence vs. Credit)

10. Is There Any Reason Not To Be on Twitter?

11. What About Podcasts? What About Media Consultations? (See Also: C Turner, Podcasts; C Walker, Rethinking Law Review Podcasts)

12. Should I Join Law Prof Amicus Briefs, Write White Papers, Or Do Other Advocacy Work?

13. Am I Asking the Right Questions? (See Also: M Rich, Hard Prawf Choices)

As the outline I included in the first post in the series suggests, there are numerous additional questions that junior scholars (and all scholars for that matter) frequently ask with respect to becoming a voice in one's field. I hope we will continue to have discussions about those here and elsewhere.

I also hope that we continue to ask ourselves whether we are asking the right questions. I hope that these questions above won't get in the way of writing high-quality scholarship that is useful and relevant to our fields. Perhaps more importantly, I hope we keep asking the "best" questions about how we can use this amazing opportunity we have as law professors to have a profound and lasting impact on the students we teach and the communities we (and they) serve through our research, teaching, and (university, local, state, national, and international) service.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 29, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

SEALS Prospective Law Teachers Workshop

Each year, the Southeast Association of Law Schools (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 Omni in Amelia Island, Florida, on Thursday, August 4 and Friday, August 5. On Thursday, there will be mock interviews between 8 and 10 AM with CV review sessions from 10:15-11:00. On Friday, mock job talks will take place from 8 to 10 AM. And at 1:00 on Friday, we will have a panel entitled “Navigating the Hiring Process” which will feature recent tenure track hires who will dispense advice about getting hired in this “new" market. There are also several excellent panels on Friday and Saturday that are targeted to new law professors, which prospective law professors will also find helpful.

If you are interested in being a participant in this year’s workshop, please send your CV to professor Brad Areheart at brad.areheart@tennessee.edu. Applications are due by June 1, 2016. Many of the past workshop participants have gone on to obtain tenure-track positions in legal academia and now teach at diverse schools, ranging from Tulane to South Carolina to Louisville.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 28, 2016 at 10:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Am I Asking the Right Questions? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

Before turning to this final question, I was going to do one more post (on writing casebooks and treatises) to wrap up the Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ Series for this month. But after Michael Rich's courageous Hard Prawf Choices post earlier this week, I thought I'd skip to the last question I included in my initial post: Am I asking the right questions?

The short answer, I think, is: probably not. Put differently, there are "good," "better," and "best" questions, and these types of questions likely fall in the "better" camp. 

The "good" questions -- indeed, the necessary but not sufficient questions -- concern the quality and type of our scholarship. Derek Tokaz's comment on an earlier post captures the critical importance of these "good" questions:

6. Write Higher Quality, Useful, Relevant Articles. I mean, I know that Batman v Superman has shown that enough buzz and advertising can get eyeballs on the screen no matter how low quality your product is, but I still think the most important way to get an audience is to have something worth reading.

This is certainly true. Our primary mission as scholars should be to produce high-quality scholarship that is useful and relevant to our field. With the exception of a quick post on Dean Minow's Archetypal Legal Scholarship: A Field Guide, admittedly I haven't focused on those "good" questions. 

But I hope this FAQ series has underscored that once a scholar has answered the "good" questions -- and produced high-quality scholarship that is useful and relevant to one's field -- it's time to turn to the "better" questions of how to get those ideas read, digested, and incorporated. As Eric Segall commented on a prior post, "The hardest part is engaging in self-promotion (especially on social media). It often feels super yucky but in our new interconnected world, it is usually necessary if you want the piece read."

If we truly believe we have produced high-quality scholarship that is useful and relevant to our field, we should think about these "better" questions to maximize the chances that our scholarship will reach the relevant audiences and have an impact on our field. That may involve choosing wisely the format of the scholarship as we discussed in the first week, including responses to scholarship, book reviews, and online law reviews. It definitely involves thinking about how to participate in one's field, as we discussed in the second week with respect to commenting on others' draft articles, increasing in-person scholarly interaction (with limited resources), and otherwise improving the chance one's scholarship will be read. To maximize one's voice, as we discussed in the third week, it might be worth blogging regularly, it probably is worth being on Twitter, and podcasts and other media consultations may well be the future (or not). And advocacy work, such as law professor amicus briefs and white papers, might also help one develop a voice in one's field, as we discussed on Monday.

Unfortunately, sometimes worrying about the "better" questions gets in the way of taking care to answer/complete the prerequisite "good" questions. Those "better" questions can also get in the way of asking the "best" questions. To borrow a line from President Shepherd, "I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job." 

So what do I mean by "best" questions? Borrowing from Michael's Hard Prawf Choices post, I think the "best" questions concern more broadly this amazing "opportunity [we have as law professors] to make an impact." No, neither Michael nor I are referring just to one's "scholarly impact" -- though scholarly impact is definitely part of the impact we can have as law professors. Instead, this impact likely takes into account our tripartite mission of teaching, research, and service. These "best" questions no doubt differ for each of us based on why we became law professors and what impact we hope to leave on the world through our work. But I'm guessing for most of us that mission extends beyond becoming a scholarly voice in our field.

Here's another way to frame these "best" questions: One of the most common phrases I've heard from junior scholars is "after tenure." After tenure, I'm going to write that book. After tenure, I'm going to design that experiential learning course that I wish I could have taken in law school. After tenure, I'll finally be able to serve on that state commission, on the board of that public interest legal service provider, or with a political campaign. After tenure... 

I don't mean to suggest that we shouldn't worry about securing tenure. We should. And no doubt the difficulty of obtaining tenure varies by institution. The cardinal Ask Your Colleagues rule should be followed, especially pretenure. But at many schools the tenure requirements leave time and space to develop in all three areas; indeed, one is often rewarded for accomplishments in all three. Moreover, for some scholars, that "after tenure..." may never happen even after tenure if they continue to fixate on these "better" questions without also focusing the "best" questions.

I find much inspiration from my fellow junior colleagues on the faculty here (at The Ohio State University): The colleague who spends countless hours each year running a national security simulation for his students. The colleague who got involved with students and others in the Black Lives Matter movement in Columbus while she was juggling a clinical course and an ambitious research agenda. The colleague who advocates on behalf of children with disabilities at both the state and federal level, at both the administrative and legislative level. The colleague who takes the time to weigh in on how states should regulate drones and also serves on a city-wide commission to implement a police body camera policy. The colleague who volunteered to help rewrite the university-wide intellectual property policy for the benefit of thousands of professors on campus. These are just a few examples.

To be sure, these service activities leverage my colleagues' relevant expertise and often overlap with their research agenda. But these endeavors don't really have anything to do with the "good" or "better" questions. If merely doing a cost-benefit analysis based on enhancing one's scholarly profile (or securing tenure and/or promotion), these activities most likely wouldn't make the cut. Instead, they seem to be my junior colleagues' answers to the "best" questions about how they can have an impact as a law professor.

Pausing to ask myself whether I'm asking the right or "best" questions could lead me, as it did for Michael, "to change the timeframe of my planning. I don't wonder how to construct a career for twenty years from now; rather, I want to make an impact now, or at least soon."

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 27, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rethinking Law Review Podcasts (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

Last week I questioned the value of law review-sponsored podcast programs, predicting that they'd be the next Betamax (as opposed to the next iPad). Based on the comments, Twitter responses, and emails, a line from one of the most ridiculous and ridiculously funny new shows on TV comes to mind: "But what if it wasn't."

In particular, it seems like there are a number of really terrific law podcast series out there, including Oral Argument and The Week in Health Law. These podcast series are not sponsored by law reviews, and seem to have carved out a niche audience with field-specific content. So I'm still skeptical that just generalist law reviews doing podcasts on the diverse articles they publish would be a recipe for success, as you need to build subscriptions and an audience.

Accordingly, if I'm the editor-in-chief of a major law review, I see two main paths forward:

First, you become the official podcast of the law school more generally, and you turn all of the school-sponsored speeches, ACS/FedSoc debates, events, etc., possible into podcasts as well as sponsor your own live events to turn into podcasts. That way, you tap into the alumni network of your school as well as lawyers within your region. Depending on the speakers, there's a potential to build your audience beyond those networks.

Second, you specialize in one area of the law and do a podcast series around that. Some journals already do this with online blogs, annual symposium issues, etc. For instance, the Harvard Law Review could do a Supreme Court Review podcast (perhaps partnering with SCOTUSblog?) similar to their annual issue, and those journals that cover particular circuits could do the same -- like the Ohio State Law Journal with the Sixth Circuit Review or the Wake Forest Law Review with the Fourth Circuit Review.  The Duke Law Journal and George Washington Law Review both do annual administrative law issues, so that could be an option.  That said, the Administrative Law Review and/or Yale Journal on Regulation would also be in a prime position to do a weekly administrative law podcast.

I guess there is a third and slightly different path forward: The law review editors could approach one of the existing podcasts and see if they wanted to partner, lending time and resources to an already successful podcast series.

In all events, my hunch is that the generalist law review doing a generalist podcast series probably won't cut it. But, again, I could be wrong. I'm much more optimistic, though, about a focused podcast that develops an audience in a field (or around a law school's general programming and built-in networks). That said, my guess is that launching and maintaining a successful podcast would require a fair amount of time and energy -- time and energy that could be put to other good uses. So consider the opportunity costs.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 26, 2016 at 10:39 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hard prawf choices

A little less than three years ago, I was diagnosed with metastatic kidney cancer, a disease that does not lend itself to optimistic prognoses.  I have been fortunate to be able to continue prawfing since then, but it has changed the way I understand my job and interact with my students and the prawf community.

One of my first challenges was deciding how much of my situation to share with my students.  I pride myself on treating my students as much like adults as possible.  So, the first semester after my diagnosis, knowing that treatment would interfere with their class schedule, I shared with them the general diagnosis (cancer) and let them know that it would require flexibility on their part.  I also reconfirmed my commitment to them to do my best and to be available when I could.  That semester was challenging, but the students were incredibly generous and forgiving.  Since then, however, I've tended to share less and less with my students.  I don't tell them I have cancer.  I simply explain cancellations by pointing vaguely to medical necessity.  The change didn't came about because I trust these students any less than the others, but because the process of disclosure was hard and I don't want to add my problems to the preexisting stress of law school.  Moreover, my current set of treatments are not as disruptive to class schedules as the first ones were.  I wonder sometimes if this is right decision -- if I value setting boundaries between myself and my students too much -- but fortunately my students have continued to be flexible and generous.

Another challenge has been whether to disclose my disease broadly.  I shared things with close friends, but I didn't go fully public on Facebook for fear of losing professional opportunities.  Would folks be hesitant to invite me for speaking gigs if I might not be able to fulfill them?  Would schools be uninterested in hiring me?  Again, I'll never know if this was the right choice or not.  The hiring market hasn't exactly been active in the last three years anyway, and speaking invitations don't overflow my inbox.  Obviously, though, I've now changed my mind.  My change of heart came about because my priorities have changed.  Honesty about an issue that has impacted me personally and professionally now trumps concerns about even short- and medium-term opportunities.

Finally, it's been interesting to change the timeframe of my planning.  I don't wonder how to construct a career for twenty years from now; rather, I want to make an impact now, or at least soon.  In the first year after my diagnosis, I was fortunate enough to get an offer to teach at an excellent school outside of the United States.  Because of concerns about my access to experimental medical treatment there, I ultimately made the extremely difficult decision to decline the offer.  When I did, I decided to recommit myself to my current institution, not because it's perfect, but because it gave me an opportunity to make an impact.  I worked hard on curricular changes at the expense of my own research interests.  I do not regret my choice, but I do wonder how things might have panned out if I had put my focus elsewhere.  Service, after all, does not give rise to notoriety outside an institution like scholarship does.

Anyway, I share these thoughts, because I've also learned that my life before my diagnosis was actually more unusual that my life since.  Before, my life was relatively straightforward and free of complications, but I've come to realize that most lives are complicated, even if the nature of the complications differ greatly from person to person.  So perhaps discussing the hard choices that complications forced on me will be useful to someone else.

Posted by Michael Rich on April 25, 2016 at 02:02 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (13)

Should I Join Law Prof Amicus Briefs, Write White Papers, Or Do Other Advocacy Work? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

My guess is that today's FAQ takes a slightly different form based on one's field of research. For me it first presented itself as a request to join a law professor amicus brief. Since then these requests have included drafting white papers and participating in other advocacy projects.

So the question, framed broadly, is: What is the value to one's scholarly research agenda, especially as a junior scholar, in engaging in legal or policy advocacy within one's field?

In tackling this question, it might be helpful (or not) to put to one side the other benefits of engaging in advocacy work as a law professor, such as service to the broader community (and making a difference in the world!) and instead focus on the impact on one's scholarly profile. Also, as with prior questions, we're assuming the tenure work is getting done and the Ask Your Colleagues cardinal rule has been followed.

Let's start with law professor amicus briefs, as my sense is that there is quite a division of opinion on whether law professors should join them. As a former Kennedy clerk who teaches and writes in administrative law and constitutional litigation, I receive a fair number of requests to join law professor amicus briefs. My general rule is to not join them, unless they are squarely within my area of expertise, I have the time to thoroughly review and comment on the draft, and I agree completely with the final version. I have not joined many amicus briefs; in fact, I think I've only joined one, for a case in the Ohio Supreme Court. Time constraints for review are usually the main barrier, and I hope to join more briefs going forward.

One of the main benefits of working on and joining law professor amicus briefs is that it gives one an opportunity to interact with other scholars in one's field and further strengthen one's networks. Another potential benefit is that it could provide an opportunity to get one's scholarship into the brief before the Court -- bringing more exposure to one's research. The adlaw profs brief in support of the United States in the pending immigration case United States v. Texas is a terrific example of that. Although this may be an obvious point, one should make sure one agrees with everything in the brief. Having drafted a fair number of amicus briefs with my lawyer (not academic) hat on, there is often a lot of room to maneuver in an amicus brief to allow more parties with diverse views to join.

Of course, we're not talking about the somewhat distinct scholarly project of writing one's own amicus brief in a case. The scholarly benefits of that may be different and perhaps can be much greater. Stephen Sachs' amicus brief in Atlantic Marine Construction comes immediately to mind. My coauthor Aaron Nielson and I are just waiting for the right qualified immunity case to file a law professor amicus brief based on our empirical work on qualified immunity to encourage the Supreme Court to, among other things, require lower courts to give reasons for exercising (or not) their Pearson discretion to reach constitutional questions.

As for white papers and reports for organizations, my guess is that the scholarly cost-benefit analysis is going to vary greatly depending on the field, the organization, and the topic. That's been my experience. The first white paper I did was on the importance of cost-benefit analysis in financial regulation. My colleague Paul Rose and I coauthored the report for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and we presented the report and our findings at a conference at the Chamber shortly thereafter. At the time (though not now), Paul and I were among the few defenders of cost-benefit analysis in financial regulation, so the report got a lot of buzz and "but see" citations. 

The second report was commissioned by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) to assess the role of federal agencies in the legislative process, with a particular focus on technical drafting assistance. ACUS is a government agency composed of government agency officials at various agencies and public members (including a lot of law professors) that commissions research on the federal regulatory state. This was an amazing opportunity, as ACUS opened many doors at federal agencies for me to conduct interviews and surveys for the project. The feedback from the ACUS members during the drafting and recommendation process was invaluable. I should note, though, that this was a tremendous amount of work. For example, the final product, with agency-specific case studies in the appendices, reached 90 pages, and I spent hundreds of hours on the project.

Both projects built on existing research interests and have led/will lead to more traditional scholarship. Both also included some monetary compensation for the work, despite both reports being independent from the sponsoring organizations (and ultimately departing at least somewhat from the organization's position on the issues). If you decide to do any consulting work for which you receive compensation, I highly recommend that you disclose those outside activities, even if your institution does have a form or policy for that (mine doesn't). For instance, per John Coates' helpful advice, I post a financial disclosure form on my faculty profile. It's also worth flagging specifically any consulting work directly related to a subsequent law review article in the article itself.

So what have been others' experiences regrading the scholarly value of doing advocacy work in their field? I hesitated to do a FAQ on this topic because my hunch is that the answer(s) to this question will depend so much on one's field, in addition to the specific opportunity. But because I think advocacy projects can (and cannot) present incredible opportunities to build one's scholarly profile, especially as a junior scholar, I thought I'd post it and see what others think.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 25, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday, April 22, 2016

What About Podcasts? What About Media Consultations? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

We already covered Twitter and blogging this week, so I thought I'd finish the week with two somewhat related questions: First, what should we make of this emerging trend among law reviews to do podcasts concerning scholarship they publish and other legal issues? And, second, how do media consultations fit into the scholarly agenda, especially pretenure?

When the law journal board here turned over last month, one of the questions they had for me was whether they should start a podcast series on the articles they publish. I was caught off guard as I apparently hadn't been following this development. The editors noted that there is a fair amount of buzz about podcasts among law review editors nationwide. Sure enough, a quick google search reveals that law reviews at AmericanHarvard, LSU, McGill, NorthwesternUCLA, Yale -- to name a few -- have implemented some version of a video or audio podcast.

I confess I haven't given too much thought to the value of podcasts in the scholarly dialogue. To be sure, I have participated in, and have very much enjoyed, teleforums sponsored by the ABA AdLaw Section or the Federalist Society (which I'm told are then turned into podcasts). I'm not sure, however, those are the same thing as law review-sponsored podcasts. I'm skeptical about the enduring value of this law-review innovation, but then I also was skeptical when Apple launched something called the iPad. If others in the PrawfsBlawg community have experimented with law review-sponsored podcasts, I'd love to hear about those experiences in the comments.

So what about media consultations? Our law school's communications team does a great job of directing reporters my way when they have questions related my research and teaching interests. I seldom turn these opportunities down (when they concern topics within my areas of expertise) -- whether that's local TV news, print or online news outlets, or radio appearances. Sometimes these media consultations are fun -- especially the sit-down NPR-styled interviews -- but most of the time I'm just nervous which soundbite or two the reporter is going to use from a ten-minute conversation.

Although I seldom turn these opportunities down, that's not because I think media consultations help me become a voice in my field or otherwise build my scholarly profile. So I think we're straying from the purpose I originally articulated for this Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ series, but would welcome disagreement on that front. Instead, I view media consultation primarily as a means of service to the law school and university (and hopefully the public). At times I also see those activities get incorporated into the classroom if students come across the TV news segment, article, or radio show. 

While we're on the topic of media consultations, I wish I had received more training on how law professors should interact with the media. I've had a number of awkward interactions with reporters since arriving at the law school. The worst, I think, is when I commented at length on a case, and the reporter decided to make the article about me instead of the case with a clickbait headline of "Justice Kennedy's Former Clerk Thinks..." -- not my finest hour. A few tips, based mainly on lessons I've learned the hard way, immediately come to mind:

(1) Reporters Aren't Your Friends: Reporters are really great at getting people to open up by expressing interest in your opinions, but they often have the story already written and are just looking for the quote they want from you. So they will keep you talking until they get that quote, even if it really isn't your main point (or really your position at all). You have to reframe questions, resist narratives, and make clear your positions.

(2) Know the Difference Between On the Record, Off the Record, and On Background: Here is a quick description. Unless I've dealt with the reporter before, I tend to ask that everything is on background until I get a better sense of where the interview is going and then we can decide what is on the record/attributable to me.

(3) You Don't Have To Answer Questions: Especially as a more junior scholar, it's important to stay within one's comfort zone and area of expertise. If reporters ask me to talk about legal or policy areas where I'm less familiar, I either just say I lack the expertise to weigh in and refer them to a colleague. Or I'll explain that I don't feel I have the sufficient expertise to go on the record or background, but that I'd be happy to talk through the issues off the record.

(4) Email Interviews: I've become a bigger fan these days of responding to emails with my take on a case, regulatory development, etc. I then don't have to worry about what could potentially be included in the story or whether my quote is accurate. One related best practice our communication team utilizes is to get a one-paragraph take from the relevant faculty expert to send out to the law school's media contacts. Sometimes the reporters just pull a quote from that release, or they follow up with additional questions but know in advance where the faculty expert is coming from on the issue.

These are just four observations that come immediately to mind. A google search of "tips for talking with reporters" would no doubt produce many more. Definitely share your wisdom and experiences, as I'm guessing I'm not alone in feeling less than fully competent in dealing with the media.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 22, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Is There Any Reason Not To Be on Twitter? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

As the framing of the FAQ from Monday and today suggests, I'm somewhat agnostic when it comes to whether law professors should blog. But not when it comes to law professors on Twitter.

First, though, a few follow-up thoughts on blogging: As Will Baude noted in the comments, "the advisability blogging, even more than most of aspects of this series, is going to turn heavily on personal tastes and abilities. Blogging is certainly not *so* important as to be worth a person's spending time on it even if they find it unpleasant and time-consuming." I think that's right, though my attempt at categorizing the types of blogging to include field-specific blogging, practitioner-oriented blogging, and beyond blogging was aimed at suggesting that the pain of law blogging may be even more worth it if your goal is for your scholarship and ideas to reach policymakers, practitioners, and the public more generally. In those circumstances, Orin Kerr's observation may no longer be the case that "blogging is still an extracurricular activity instead of something that is part of the core mission of legal academics." For example, I'm guessing that's not the case for Doug Berman, Paul Caron, Noah Feldman, Rick Hasen, or Steven Davidoff Solomon, or perhaps even for Stephen Bainbridge or Josh Blackman.

With respect to Twitter, however, I'd reframe the FAQ I often get as whether there is any reason for a law professor not to be on Twitter. 

I'm a big fan of Twitter for law professors, as my leading question suggests. At the start of my second year at the law school, I decided to experiment with Twitter as a professional resource and social media tool, and I haven't looked back. A few benefits come immediately to mind.

First, a lot of academics are on Twitter, so from an information-gathering perspective you can find out about developments and new scholarship in your field much more quickly. Because you choose who you follow, you can structure your Twitter timeline (or create lists if your timeline consists of a lot of different fields, etc.) to track in real time what's going on in your field.

Second, a lot of academics -- in addition to other experts and media in most law and policy fields -- are on Twitter, so from an information-sharing perspective you can add your voice to the conversation on a particular issue and get your scholarship and ideas out there more quickly. For instance, I've fielded a lot of media inquiries based on my tweets about current cases or regulatory developments (more on media consulting on Friday), and my blog posts and draft articles get a lot more eyes on them by circulating them on Twitter (not so much on Facebook or LinkedIn).

Third, conversations about your scholarship, blog posts, and ideas are likely already happening on Twitter. And because you're not on it, the likelihood that others will find your more extensive commentary on the issue -- or explore your other scholarship and ideas -- is diminished. So much of information-sharing is driven by social media these days that I'm puzzled, for instance, why a number of law bloggers aren't even on Twitter. These seem like missed opportunities to join the conversation around an idea, blog post, or article that you've already written, or to add your scholarship to the discussion.

Fourth, especially in comparison to blogging, Twitter requires very little effort. It's not the case that you only get out of it what you put into it. You get a lot out of the very little effort of setting up the account. Just create an account, let Twitter search your contacts for potential accounts to follow, follow those accounts in your field, and then tweet out stuff when you feel like it -- once a day, once a week, or whatever. Having a Twitter presence, without too much more, helps reap the benefits discussed above. Of course, some scholars put a lot more effort into Twitter than that, and I'd be curious if they feel the benefits are commensurate to the costs. Plus, Twitter, like all social media, can be quite addictive and could distract from scholarship if one does not exercise self-control. On the other hand, Twitter can also be a nice reprieve from waiting in line at the DMV, sitting in the audience at an event you have to attend (you can always live-tweet conferences, etc., to keep you more engaged too), or filling some other dead time in the day.

Finally, some remark that they are already on Facebook and/or LinkedIn (or Instagram or Snapchat (!?)), so they do not want to take on another social media platform. In my experience, however, the benefits listed above are much better on Twitter than Facebook or LinkedIn. I'd be curious what others have experienced with the various social media platforms. As for tips for navigating twitter, there are lots of how-to guides out there. Plus, over at the Faculty Lounge in February we brainstormed some tips for law reviews on Twitter, and many of those tips apply to law professors as well.

So what say you PrawfsBlawg community?  Is Twitter great or the greatest?

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 20, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (13)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Is Blogging Worth It? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

The Junior Law Prawfs FAQ series enters its third week. The first week focused on publishing legal scholarship (responses, book reviews, and online law review essays). The second week turned to interacting with peers in one's field, including promoting new scholarship, commenting on others' draft scholarship, and increasing in-person scholarly interactions. This week's line of questions builds on last week's, but concerns interacting within one's field more generally (not just limited to other scholars in the field).

Today's FAQ asks a very common question: Especially as a junior scholar, is blogging worth it?

To focus our crowdsourcing, let's put a couple things to one side. First, follow the cardinal Ask Your Colleagues rule, especially pretenure as your tenure-voting colleagues will no doubt have strong feelings on whether they feel blogging is a worthwhile pretenure endeavor. Second, make sure your tenure house is in order. I see blogging as one means to help one become a national (or international) voice in one's field, but it's not a substitute for the traditional scholarship required for promotion and tenure (at least not at any school I know). So this FAQ assumes the junior scholar can blog on top of doing the things required for tenure.

With those assumptions in mind, the next set of questions concern what type of blogging and what benefits one hopes to secure. Let's start with the type of blogging, as I think that changes the cost-benefit analysis. Here I'm going to define blogging more broadly than perhaps the ordinary, everyday meaning:

(1) Generalist Law Nerd Blogging: Perhaps we should call this category the first wave of legal blogging? In this category I include any of the generalist law blogs (Prawfs, Concurring Opinions, Faculty Lounge, Volokh Conspiracy, etc.), where a collection of legal scholars blog about nerdy law and policy topics that may interest them. To be sure, some blog more exclusively on their subject matters, but the blogs themselves seem more general, with the target audience being other legal scholars and law nerds.

(2) Field-Specific, Law Professor Blogging: Here think Law Professor Blogs Network. These blogs have a subject-matter focus, yet the bloggers are generally still legal scholars. The audience, though, may be more than just other legal scholars and may include policymakers, advocates, and others interested in the field. Some of these blogs are team efforts, whereas others -- Doug Berman, Paul Caron, and Rick Hasen come immediately to mind -- are mainly solo endeavors. Some of these blogs attempt to cover everything that's happening in that field (again, see, for example, Berman, Caron, and Hasen), whereas others cover topics that are of most interest to the bloggers (and their audience).

(3) Field-Specific, Yet Practitioner-Oriented Blogging: A variant of the prior category, these blogs are similarly focused on one legal field, but their audience is perhaps as much if not more policymakers and practitioners, as it is other legal scholars and law nerds. This is at least the goal of the Notice and Comment blog, where I've regularly blogged since Fall 2014. The Yale Journal on Regulation student editors founded the blog, and we became the official administrative law blog in the Law Professor Blogs Network about a year later. More recently, the ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice joined as a co-partner to expand our government and practitioner audiences (and bloggers). The blog's mission is definitely to reach policymaking, government, and practitioner audiences.

(4) Beyond Blogging: As traditional media outlets have been forced to evolve (perhaps in part in response to blogging), opportunities to write regularly for more traditional media outlets seem to be on the rise. Volokh Conspiracy's migration to the Washington Post is one example of that trend. But individual law professors have also been deeply involved, with Garret Epps, Noah Feldman, Peter Shane, Steven Davidoff Solomon, and Cass Sustein coming immediately to mind. These authors write regularly for the Atlantic, Bloomberg View, Huffington Post, and the New York Times, among others, as opposed to at law blogs. 

My guess is that the costs and benefits will vary significantly depending on the type of blogging one is interested in doing, and of course what one hopes to get out of it.  I can only speak from my own personal experience. As I mentioned above, I started blogging at the Yale Journal on Regulation back in Fall 2014. The advice I received from many regular (and retired) bloggers was to start with a narrow focus, as blogging takes up a lot of time and can end up swallowing time otherwise dedicated for my own research.

Inspired by Jotwell, Lisa Larrimore Ouellette's Written Description Blog, and Larry Solum's Legal Theory Blog, I decided my initial experiment would be the AdLaw Bridge Series, in which I would highlight one piece of administrative law scholarship each week in an attempt to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of administrative law. I was already reading all of these articles, and oftentimes providing comments to the authors, so I thought the additional work of coming up with a few hundred words about the piece wouldn't be too overwhelming. 

As I got more comfortable with doing the AdLaw Bridge Series, I'd sprinkle in a couple substantive posts of my own each month, covering current administrative law cases and topics. For instance, I did two fun posts on King v. Burwell (within hours of the opinion being issued), and more recently one in response to Tyler Cowen on Trump as Regulator-in-Chief. We've also done a number of online symposia on various topics, and I do a monthly SSRN adlaw scholarship top-10 list. I of course also blog about my own scholarship -- at the idea-generating stage, at the comment-soliciting stage, and at publication.

I definitely underestimated the costs of blogging regularly, but fortunately I also undervalued the benefits. Blogging regularly is therapeutic, as it keeps me more engaged with ideas and arguments in my field, supporting my own research and teaching. Blogging about articles makes me read them a bit more closely, and obviously has helped me get to know scholars in my field. Hopefully readers have also found them useful. If one enjoys talking with reporters or consulting with policymakers, the number of calls I receive from both groups has gone up considerably since I started blogging, and many of those individuals reference blog posts of mine. SSRN downloads shot through the roof once I started blogging, and I hope that means that scholars, government officials, and practitioners are reading and thinking about my scholarship.

In sum, my own experience is that there are significant costs and benefits to blogging, but at least for me it has had a large positive net value and complements well my research agenda. It's particularly helpful for someone like me who hopes that federal agency officials and administrative law practitioners will read and incorporate my scholarship.

I'm curious to hear others' perspectives on blogging regularly -- both as to the cost-benefit analysis generally and as to cost-effective ways to blog. If you've already blogged about that elsewhere, please do include the link(s) in the comments so that others can find them here.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 18, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, April 15, 2016

How Can I Increase In-Person Scholarly Interaction with Limited Resources? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

In her meta response to this Junior Law Prawfs FAQ series, my colleague Deborah Merritt suggested, among other things, that we should "[r]educe the number of scholarly presentations that require travel."  She further explained:

Workshops and conferences are terrific ways to promote scholarly exchange, but we have more than is prudent. These sessions are expensive for schools to host, and frequent faculty travel disrupts class schedules. And let’s not forget the major effect that air travel has on global warming. We could cut scholarly travel modestly, replacing some of it with online interactions. We could prune, moreover, in a way that preserves junior and diverse voices.

Like Howard, I agree with some of Debby's proposals, including encouraging both shorter and online forms of scholarship and balancing our scholarly modes. But I'm just not convinced that the benefits of this less-travel-for-conference proposal justify their costs. In fact, I see in-person scholarly interaction (especially with the senior scholars) as a vital part of developing a voice in one's field. 

But, as Debby notes, we live in a world of (perhaps increasingly) limited resources, so such in-person interactions may be becoming less common and more precious. In response to this post I'd love to hear more about how others have leveraged existing resources to create meaningful, in-person scholarly dialogue.

To get us started, here are ten best practices I've seen in my first few years here:

(1) Faculty Workshops: For those schools that still maintain a faculty workshop series with outside presenters, one best practice that I love about my law school is that pretenure scholars are given the opportunity each year to choose one of the outside presenters and are encouraged to select someone senior in their field who they would like to get to know better. This is a terrific opportunity for junior scholars to interact with others in their field, and the folks I've brought in have remained strong mentors in my scholarly development.

(2) Summer Faculty Workshops: Last year we experimented with a new form of summer faculty workshop where pretenure professors invited other junior scholars in their field to present their scholarship during a lightning-round faculty workshop. The junior scholars paid their own way, and our law school covered a dinner the night before and the lunch at the faculty workshop. To limit the number of events, we had three presenters at each of two workshops, who received 20-25 minutes total to present and get feedback. These lightning rounds were very productive, as was the ability for all of the juniors here to interact with three juniors from outside the law school.

(3) Junior Faculty Workshops: Established long before I arrived here, the law school supports a monthly junior faculty workshop series, where we get to present scholarship internally. In addition to having a smaller environment that may encourage a different type of discussion (and with more junior peers, which may take some pressure off some to present earlier and/or crazier ideas), it is also an easy way to have additional in-person scholarly interactions without the cost (in terms of lunch, if that is provided, and faculty time) of the full-faculty workshop.

(4) Inter-School Exchange Workshops: We have a number of exchange agreements with other Ohio schools, where they send one scholar to our faculty workshop each year and we send one their way. This reduces costs significantly -- allowing us to have more opportunities to present elsewhere as well as more opportunities to interact with scholars outside of our school here.

(5) State/Regional Conferences: For many years now we have had the Ohio Legal Scholars Conference twice a year, in which junior scholars at law schools from across the state pay their own way to drive to one school for a one-day event. The costs on the host institution are relatively low (lunch and facilities), and this provides a great opportunity to interact with others in the field and in the state. Indiana-Bloomington also hosts an annual Big Ten Juniors Conference that is absolutely amazing. I love that it's in August, near the end of the summer research cycle but before classes begin. I attended a "new ideas" conference at the beginning of last summer that U Kentucky hosts each year, and that was a terrific event as well.

(6) Law Review Symposium: When Chevron deference turned thirty, my colleague Peter Shane suggested that we organize a birthday party and pitch it to a law review. This is a lot of work to do solo, especially pretenure, but not as heavy a lift if you have a partner in crime. The Fordham Law Review agreed to take the symposium (final written product here).  This experience remains for me one of the most meaningful from the perspective of developing as a scholar. Law reviews are always looking for symposium topics, and law reviews typically have funding to help pull off the event. It obviously helps to have a participant at the law review's institution.

(7) Field-Specific Conferences: Imitating the longstanding and successful Federal Courts Junior Faculty Workshop and newer Civil Procedure Workshop, a number of us (coincidentally all at Big 10 schools) have launched the Administrative Law New Scholarship Rountable. The inaugural roundtable will be at Michigan State this summer; Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin have committed to host the event during the next three years. The host institution agrees to pay for meals, facilities, and the travel and lodging expenses for the senior commentators, and the presenters (who were selected from a call for papers) pay their own travel and lodging. This is a terrific way to gather scholars in a field together to workshop papers and share ideas, and this format (which we copied from the Fed Courts Workshop) is pretty cost-effective. A number of other legal fields have similar events.

(8) Practitioner Events: One of the hidden secrets for administrative law scholars is the annual ABA Administrative Law Conference. The ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice solicits panel proposals in the spring/summer for the fall conference, and many law professors propose panels on current topics and scholarship. And many more law professors attend the conference, along with 500-1000 government and law firm attorneys. This is a terrific opportunity to bridge the theory-practice gap, and my guess is that other ABA sections have similar programming (or could have similar programming with a little nudge from professors in their field). There are of course annual conferences for the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society, among others, that may afford additional opportunities for law professors to present their scholarship and interact with each other and other lawyers and policymakers in their field.

(9) Online Forums: Although not in-person interactions, there are a number of ways to interact online. For instance, as I mentioned last week, we just wrapped up a terrific online symposium over at Yale JREG on Peter Conti-Brown's new book on the Federal Reserve. I've participated in a number of ABA and Federalist Society teleforums on emerging issues and cases (see, e.g., here). As Richard Re documented last summer here on PrawfsBlawg, we once had a pretty vibrant discussion via Twitter about the Supreme Court's standing precedent. (I'll return to Twitter next week.) And Nancy Leong's RightsCast is worth checking out as another way for scholars to interact online about their research.

(10) Book Clubs: I couldn't compile a list of in-person opportunities to develop one's scholarship without mentioning the scholar who occupies the office next to mine: Peter Shane. I am so fortunate to have another scholar in my field at my law school. And one of the most generous scholars in my field, at that. We have many, many interactions on a weekly, if not daily, basis, but one of my favorites is our "book club" -- an idea Peter proposed shortly after I arrived. We take turns choosing a new piece of scholarship in our field to read, and then we discuss it over lunch. I've learned so much about my field, about writing scholarship, and about life during these lunches. To be sure, sometimes we spend just a few minutes on the assigned reading, and conversation quickly drifts to our own research. Not everyone is fortunate to have another scholar in their field at their school, but fortunately technology has made it more possible to have such conversations remotely.

I think I'll stop there, as I'm already over 1,000 words. These are the first ten that come immediately to mind. But I'd love to hear ideas that others have to encourage more interaction between scholars in one's field. And, as always, definitely chime in if you think I'm asking the wrong question(s).

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 15, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How Should I Respond to Requests to Read Draft Articles in My Field? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

A significant part of my first few years on the faculty has consisted of reading articles from scholars in my field. Perhaps in part because I transitioned straight from private practice, I felt way behind when I arrived and took the advice of mentors to spend much of my first year just reading articles in my field -- time that, looking back, was very well spent. 

As I started in interact more in my field, however, the requests to read and comment others' drafts started trickling in and now I spend a lot of time reading and commenting drafts. I am guessing I'm not alone here. Although I've gotten faster at reviewing drafts, it still requires a decent chunk of time, and even more to do so well.

That leads to my Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ for today: Especially for junior scholars, how should one respond to requests to read drafts of articles in one's field?

The short answer, I think, is that junior scholars generally should accept the request to respond. This feels like a critical part of being a legal academic. I admire the senior scholars in administrative law who are so generous with the time to comment on drafts of my work. I still remember when Jerry Mashaw and Peter Strauss, for instance, took the time to review and comment on one of my papers. To be sure, especially as a junior scholar with a steeper learning curve and a tenure clock, it's understandable to set some limits. But healthy habits are made early.

Perhaps the more interesting question is how to respond. In other words, what type of feedback is most helpful and valuable to scholars in the field? I've received everything from general comments and broad themes to specific suggestions and even line edits. I'm just happy to receive any feedback, so I haven't focused too much on what has been most helpful to me. And I'm particularly curious if there are any best practices for aspiring and junior scholars to think about when commenting on senior scholars' draft articles in particular.

Circling back to Monday's FAQ post about increasing the chances of one's scholarship being read by folks in the field, one critical step is becoming part of the field. And reading and commenting on drafts from others in the field seems like an important ingredient. On Friday I'll turn to what I think is another important ingredient: participating (and organizing) conference/symposium events.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 13, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, April 11, 2016

How Do I Increase the Chance My Scholarship Will Be Read? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

Last week we covered various FAQs concerning the type of legal publication (responses to articles, book reviews, and online law reviews). This week the questions will focus on interacting within one's field. The first question, which dovetails nicely with the questions from last week, is how to increase the chances that one's scholarship, especially pretenure (though not limited to that), will actually be read in the field. I'm very interested in leveraging the PrawfsBlawg community on this. To get us started, here are a few best practices that come to mind:

1. Post Papers Online: Make sure your paper is available on the various online repositories. SSRN is probably the most used in our field, but also consider Selected Works (bepress), Academia.edu, law school depositories, and others. I tend to post draft papers to SSRN once they've been accepted for publication, but practices seem to vary among legal scholars. Some post drafts before they submit to law reviews, whereas others wait until the final paper is published. There are advantages, I think, to getting the draft circulated once it's in decent shape so that you can actually incorporate comments you may receive. But definitely get a sense of the norms in your legal subfield as well as follow the cardinal Ask Your Colleagues rule. I don't post to the other online repositories until the paper is published, though there probably isn't a good reason for that.

2. Utilize Social Media: Once you have the paper posted somewhere, it makes sense to circulate to your social networks, via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. (I'll return to Twitter/social media in more depth later this month.) 

3. Circulate to Readers: I send the final version to anyone who has provided comments on prior drafts, as well as any organizers of conferences or faculty workshops where I presented earlier drafts. I've also created an email list of junior scholars/regular readers in my field that I send it to, as well as a list of current and former research assistants (I do that more as an excuse to stay in touch with them).

4. Hard Copy and Electronic Offprints: When I transitioned from private practice to the law faculty here, I pledged to never send out paper offprints as it just seemed like a waste of trees (and money!). I've since changed my mind and send out offprints to a number of folks in the field. I'd be curious to hear what others think about hard-copy offprints. In all events, if not hard copies, at least a personalized email to those in your field who may find it interesting (construing that category broadly). 

5. Guest-Blogging about Article: I plan on discussing blogging in greater detail later this month, but it's not a bad idea to blog about your new paper -- either once you have a draft online or once the final version is posted. If you don't blog regularly, you can always approach a blog in your subfield and ask if you can do a couple posts about your article. If your work is related to administrative law/regulation, we always welcome guest blog posts at the Yale Journal on Regulation blog (the student editors have the final say, but they love to get guest posts on current scholarship). RegBlog also encourages adlaw scholars to write up opinion pieces on their current scholarship, as does Osservatorio AIR (with a great readership in Europe).

Those are the best practices that come immediately to mind. I'd love to hear what others do to increase the chance their scholarship actually gets read. Definitely feel free to shoot down any of the ideas I've suggested above.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 11, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (10)

Friday, April 08, 2016

Benign Socratic

A group of admitted/prospective students and their parents visited my class this morning (for a dose of Daimler v. Bauman and Shaffer v. Heitner). One parent, herself a lawyer in town, came to me after class and said that was the best "benign Socratic" class she had ever seen. I like that phrase better than "modified Socratic," which was the buzzword at the Meat market three years ago as code for "I'm rigorous, but not obnoxious."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 8, 2016 at 03:50 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

How Do I Make Sense of Online Law Reviews? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

As I mentioned on Monday with respect to whether to publish online responses to law review articles (or to allow law review editors to seek response(s) to one's own article), I planned on returning to the more basic question of how to make sense of the rise of the online companions to many general law reviews. To get us started, consider the following question Nancy Leong recently crowdsourced on Facebook from a friend who is interested in legal academia (reposted with permission):

For purposes of getting a job, which of the following article placements is best: (1) a print law review at a school ranked 50-100; (2) a print specialty journal at a top 15ish school; or (3) an online law review at a top 15ish school?

This isn't the first time I've seen such a question on Facebook, and a number of aspiring academics (and junior law professors) have asked me similar questions. Based on the responses to Nancy's FB post, my guess is that there are at least as many answers--many conflicting--as there are online law reviews.

My questions are a bit more basic (though I hope still important) than whether to place an article in the print or online journal: What's the purpose of online law reviews? And how should we view and use them as scholars (junior or otherwise)?

Outside of writing responses to law review articles (the purpose of which seems quite obvious), I've only waded into the online law review waters once. My colleague Paul Rose and I had authored a white paper for the Chamber of Commerce on cost-benefit analysis in financial regulation. (I plan on returning to white papers/reports/advocacy projects later this month.)  In doing that research we had what we thought was one pretty cool, but pretty narrow, argument that didn't fit in the report. We didn't want to write a full article because of other research obligations, but we also wanted to get it out there as the D.C. Circuit was considering similar cases and it was part of a hot academic debate. So we wrote up a few thousand words, and published the essay in an online law review. It attracted a fair amount of attention, got the idea out there in a timely manner (submission took less than a week and editing another couple weeks), and drew more attention to our white paper in the process.

If the purpose of the online law review is to get timely, short (2K-6K words) essays out there faster than the traditional law review, I think I understand the place of online law reviews in current legal scholarship. But that doesn't seem to be the case with at least some online law reviews, as Nancy's FB post indicates. Scholars now seem to be publishing much longer pieces in online law reviews. It seems, perhaps, that at least some law reviews are treating their online companions like the GAP to their print volume Banana Republic (or maybe the better analogy is the Banana Republic Outlet line to the more expensive BR line).

This is perhaps reinforced by the latest Washington & Lee Law Review Rankings, which were released earlier this week. In skimming the top-100 general law review rankings (based on the "combined" citation score), I was surprised to see a few online companions in the list. In drafting this post I took a closer look:  Among the general law reviews -- print and online combined -- the Stanford Law Review Online comes in at No. 52, the Yale Law Journal Forum at No. 70, Northwestern at No. 86, Columbia at No. 92, Penn at No. 123, Harvard at No. 125, Vanderbilt at No. 147, and Michigan at No. 148. So apparently scholars are reading them and citing them, more so than many other fine print law reviews. Further digging is needed to understand whether the online companions are becoming substitutes for other journals in those tiers with respect to medium-length articles/essays. Anecdotal evidence suggest that may be happening.

When working as a law student on the law review over a decade ago, the trend at the time was for law reviews to commit to publishing shorter articles, meaning fewer than 25K or even 20K words. While longer articles have their place in legal scholarship, I was hoping this trend would stick to encourage shorter, more accessible articles (especially to scholars outside of law who would consider our articles books) in addition to the more treatise-length articles we publish. That doesn't seem to have happened. I fear the online law review might be filling that void, and if so, I'm not sure what that means for legal scholarship.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, and online law reviews end up being what many of us hoped they would be: an opportunity to publish quickly an important idea on a timely law or policy topic in the form of a short essay (5-15 pages); an opportunity to respond to an article published in the law review; or an opportunity to have a fun dialogue or debate (minisymposium) on a timely topic in law or policy.  I have seen this done very effectively. Mehrsa Baradaran's postal banking essay comes immediately to mind,  in which she further developed an idea floated in one of her law review articles in response to the USPS releasing a white paper on the topic. She then wrote a full-length book on the subject, and Bernie Sanders has taken that idea further. That's just one of many examples that come to mind.

I hope this post sparks a productive discussion on how to make sense of online law reviews. I'd love to hear about others' experiences--both good and bad--with the online law review publishing process. Do online law reviews serve other useful purposes that I haven't flagged in this post? Am I even asking the right questions here with respect to the purpose and value of online law reviews?

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 8, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (10)

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Going Meta on the Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ Series

I'll be back on Friday with my next FAQ (on the mysterious rise and perplexing value of online law reviews), but I thought I'd share the provocative response my colleague Deborah Merritt posted about this Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ Series over at the Law School Cafe. The full post is here, but here are seven points that she thinks are essential to reshape our scholarly sphere:

(1)  Give back some of the time we now devote to scholarship. We could use that resource to reduce tuition, expand experiential education, offer more feedback to students, or equalize faculty status (see point #7 below). I strongly support excellent scholarship, but know that we can preserve quality (if not quantity) with fewer resources. The scholars of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s did it; so can we.

(2) Reduce the number of scholarly presentations that require travel.Workshops and conferences are terrific ways to promote scholarly exchange, but we have more than is prudent. These sessions are expensive for schools to host, and frequent faculty travel disrupts class schedules. And let’s not forget the major effect that air travel has on global warming. We could cut scholarly travel modestly, replacing some of it with online interactions. We could prune, moreover, in a way that preserves junior and diverse voices.

(3) Encourage both shorter and online forms of scholarship. A short published response to a theoretical piece can promote significant intellectual advancement. Put that essay online and it may stimulate even more discussion. Create an online conference and it will foster both synchronous and asynchronous commentary. These scholarly modes have already emerged but, as Chris’s discussion suggests, junior scholars are unsure of their value. Faculty leaders should make clear that these new scholarly venues make significant contributions.

(4) Balance our scholarly modes. Although I like new forms of scholarship, the traditional law review article and academic book still serve key roles. There are times when a scholar needs to develop an idea fully in an article or book. As faculty leaders, we should promote newer types of scholarship in combination with more traditional outlets. Most scholars will do some of each over an academic career; others will gravitate to a particular mode. We can find balance both individually and as a faculty.

(5) Promote scholarship that helps practitioners and clients. These groups draw value from many types of scholarship. I have discussed my federalism theories with legislators, government lawyers, and judges. Community members have responded enthusiastically to essays critiquing the legal system. We shouldn’t assume that practicing lawyers and their clients are too plebian to appreciate theory. But at the same time, we should not denounce other types of scholarship as too “descriptive” or “doctrinal.” It’s hard to describe legal principles clearly, and legal doctrines are complex. As a result, practitioners and clients benefit from ongoing insights about legal developments. Faculty already recognize the complexity of legal doctrine in their teaching; that same complexity justifies thoughtful, well organized scholarship that guides practitioners and clients through legal thickets.

(6) Value teaching materials as scholarship. Like my plug for professionally relevant scholarship, this point is both old and new. Hart and Wechsler’s revolutionary casebook on The Federal Courts and the Federal System profoundly affected both scholarship and teaching when it first appeared; it undoubtedly continues to do so under its contemporary authors. Creating thoughtful materials for students has always provoked scholarly reflection. Today, as brain science deepens our understanding of pedagogy, there is even more scope for teaching materials that incorporate and further scholarship.

(7) Abolish our faculty caste system. Today’s legal scholarship rests on an uneasy–and deeply unfair–caste system. Tenured professors at many law schools enjoy job security, high pay, light course loads, and extensive research support (summer grants, travel funds, research assistants, computers). These professors rarely teach the time-intensive courses that students, employers, and regulators recognize are essential to professional education. Instead, we rely upon a cadre of professors who are much lower paid, lack full job security, and enjoy little research support to teach those courses. Many of those professors want to do research; indeed, many have produced scholarship without the summer grants or lightened teaching loads that tenured faculty claim are indispensable.

  

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 7, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Is Publishing a Book Review in a Law Review Still a Worthwhile Pretenure Endeavor? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

Following up on my post from Monday on whether it's worth writing a response to a law review article as a junior scholar, I thought I'd turn to the somewhat related question of whether as a junior scholar it's worth doing a full-length book review in a law review. To provide a little background, I still remember some advice a professor gave during my aspiring-professor legal studies workshop in law school over a decade ago (paraphrasing as my memory isn't that good):

Publishing a book review in a law review is an excellent way to introduce yourself to the field because you can interact with a respected senior scholar's work and then let your own voice and ideas come through as well.  There's the additional value that it's easier for a junior scholar to place a book review (especially of a book by a respected scholar in one's field) in a top-tier law review than a traditional law review article. So you build your CV with a top-tier book review placement, which helps you place your first full-length article. And, moreover, scholars in your field are more likely to read a book review from a junior scholar than a traditional article from that same previously unknown junior scholar.

Assuming this advice was good a decade ago, is it still good advice today? Do many law reviews still publish these long-form book reviews? Is it really easier to place a book review than a traditional article in a law review? Is it more likely that scholars will read the book review than a full-length article from an unknown junior scholar in the field?

To be sure, the Michigan Law Review still does its Annual Survey of Books. As Paul Horwitz noted on this blog last year, the Tulsa Law Review also has had a long tradition of publishing a book review issue, though I didn't see a submissions option on their website for this year. And I see the Harvard Law Review and others still publish book reviews on occasion. In fact, Kathryne Young  and Joan Petersilia just published a fun books review in the Harvard Law Review that's definitely worth a read, especially because it reviews, among other books, Alice Goffman's On the Run that has been the subject of some controversy -- though Young and Petersilia conclude (at 1330 n.36) that "[t]he allegations that [Goffman] fabricated data or exaggerated claims have received a fair amount of media attention, but at this point strike us as so poorly founded that they are not worth debating here." [HT Orin Kerr]

I have little insight to offer on this question, as I've never written a long-form book review for law review submission. Sure, I've blogged about books over at the Yale Journal on Regulation, including a contribution yesterday to our symposium on Peter Conti-Brown's terrific new book The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve. And it's definitely on my bucket list to publish a book review over at The New Rambler (one of my favorite academic websites out there). But blog and website short-form book reviews strike me as a different beast than the long-form law-review book review. The cost-benefit analysis for these online book reviews seems similar to writing responses to law review articles (which we discussed in Monday's post).

With that disclaimer of ignorance, I'm a bit skeptical about the pretenure value of long-form book reviews. Again, it comes back to opportunity costs. It takes a long time to read and digest a book and then come up with something smart to say about it, and an even longer time to then build on the book in a way that furthers one's own research agenda. To be sure, there may be times when the stars align and the book ends where your brilliant research agenda begins. There may also be opportunities to coauthor a book review with a senior scholar in your field, which produces additional benefits (and costs). In other words, there may be exceptions to the general rule. Conversely, I'm not convinced that a junior scholar has a better chance of placing a book review than a traditional law review article, perhaps because I'm not sure law reviews are publishing book reviews as often as they may have been in the past. Nor am I persuaded that scholars in the field are more likely to read a new scholar's book review than her first full-length article.

Do folks agree that the general pretenure rule is probably to focus on other forms of scholarship? I'm quite curious to crowdsource this question and hear the experiences of others (both pre- and post-tenure).

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 6, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (13)

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

How Does My Research Fit Within the Types of Legal Scholarship? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

A number of junior (and aspiring) law professors have reached out with a common question: How do I conceptualize where my research agenda and/or methodology fits into the larger legal literature? Fortunately, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow has already provided a terrific starting point, in an essay entitled Archetypal Legal Scholarship: A Field Guide, which was published in Journal of Legal Education in 2013. Here's the introduction:

It has been my pleasure to be a sounding board and advisor to many people who consider becoming law professors and yet it has not always been easy to introduce people considering their own research projects to reflect on how their ideas connect with the varieties of legal scholarship. One day I decided to write up a “field guide,” meant to be rather like the guides to birds that offer pictures and descriptions to assist the casual or serious birdwatcher. After sharing it and revising it, I have learned that this “guide” now travels underground and electronically, so I thought it time to give it an official publication, and the Journal’s editors kindly agreed. The explosion of interdisciplinary research in law contributes to the variety of legal scholarship. So does the contrast between “inside” and “outside” thinking in law schools where we try both to equip people for practice and effectiveness within existing institutions and for roles as critics, institutional reformers, and scholars who may explain and analyze in terms quite different from those in the minds of actors operating within existing legal systems. So here with an invitation for supplements, critiques, and revisions is my Archetypal Legal Scholarship: A Field Guide.

Definitely go give the full essay (all five pages!) a read here. Tomorrow I'll return with my next FAQ on whether book reviews in law reviews are still a worthwhile pretenure endeavor.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 5, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 04, 2016

2016 Texas Legal Scholars Workshop

Presented by

The Southern Methodist University (SMU) Dedman School of Law

and the University of Houston Law Center

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 SMU and Houston invite you to join us for the second annual Texas Legal Scholars Workshop, to be held on August 26-27, 2016, at the SMU Dedman School of Law in Dallas, Texas. The Texas Legal Scholars Workshop 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.

At the Workshop, each author will present a 5-10 minute synopsis of his or her paper, followed by 15-20 minutes of comments by a primary commenter, followed by an open discussion with other attendees.

The workshop will give participants the chance to meet other early-career scholars in Texas, 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 SMU 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 a Texas law school. 

When: The workshop will be on Friday August 26th & Saturday August 27th, 2016. 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.

Where: Southern Methodist University, Dedman School of Law (https://goo.gl/maps/dNyc9rAo19D2).

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 another 15-20 minutes. After that, other attendees may take turns commenting. Each session will last no more than 60 minutes.

Hotel: There are several hotels nearby. We have reserved a block of rooms at the hotel closest to the Law School, the Hotel Lumen. It is a short walk to the Law School and is close to several shops and restaurants.

Questions: Nathan Cortez (ncortez@smu.edu) or Douglas Moll (dmoll@central.uh.edu).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 4, 2016 at 04:03 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

2016 Meta-Ranking of Flagship US Law Reviews

This post was written by Bryce Clayton Newell of Tilburg University.

I want to thank Howard for posting this to the blog for me. I have been an avid reader of the blog for a number of years now, and it is nice to have the chance to try something out with you all and get some feedback on an idea for a new way to rank law reviews.

(I realize I may have just scared some of you off :) If not, I appreciate your continued attention.)

I am a long-time Angsting Thread lurker and sometimes commenter/spreadsheet contributor (when I have something to add). This submission cycle, during my “free” time between repeatedly hitting “refresh” on the Spring 2016 Angsting Thread (to read updated comments) while waiting for two articles to get accepted, I put together a meta-ranking of general/flagship US law journals. Law journal rankings show up periodically on PrawfsBlawg (as well as on other popular law blogs), but the semi-annual Angsting Thread continuously includes comments and questions about how to compare offers, whether to use US News rankings (either the Overall Ranking or the Peer Reputation ranking), and how (or whether) to consider alternative, impact-based, metrics like the W&L Combined Ranking or Google Scholar Metrics.

As a junior academic and aspiring prof., I’ve also asked these questions of numerous mentors and former law professors of mine. The advice I’ve gotten generally mirrors the advice I’ve seen in the comments: generally use the US News Overall Ranking (or maybe the peer reputation ranking, although this is less frequently mentioned), and if you can find it, consider the average ranking of a school over the last X years rather than only the most recent annual ranking; the alternative rankings can be useful to e.g., compare a specialized journal with a flagship one or as a way to distinguish between offers from two closely ranked (by US News) general journals, but they should not replace the general consensus that (one of ) the US News rankings is the best gauge of journal prestige.

However, as an interdisciplinary scholar who publishes work in both peer-reviewed social science journals and law reviews, it strikes me as odd that we would discount measures of journal impact completely when choosing where to submit and which offers to prioritize. To be sure, the W&L ranking has some flaws (some described earlier on PrawfsBlawg here) and other citation-based impact factor rankings commonly used in other disciplines (like JCR/ISI) also have their limitations (including poor coverage of law journals). Google Scholar Metrics represents an interesting alternative way to measure impact (Google’s metrics description is here), but also doesn’t have full coverage of law journals and comes with a different set of concerns. Regardless, though, it appears important that some measures of citation or impact are taken into account, as direct correlations between US News rankings of law schools and law journal importance seem a bit weak as the primary (or only) measure to evaluate.

So, to get to the point, I decided to create a meta-ranking of the possible contenders for gauging the relative importance of journals and offers: US News Overall Ranking (averaged from 2010-2017), US News Peer Reputation Ranking (also averaged from 2010-2017), W&L Combined Ranking (at default weighting; 2007-2014), and Google Scholar Metrics law journal rankings (averaging the h-index and h-median of each journal, as proposed here by Robert Anderson). I've ranked each journal within each ranking system, averaged these four ranks using a 25% weighting for each, and computed and ranked the final scores. I think this approach benefits from incorporating a couple different forms of impact evaluation (W&L + Google) while not disregarding the general sentiment that law school “prestige” (USN combined rank + peer reputation rank, each averaged over an 8-year period) is an important factor in law review placement decisions.

I would love to get feedback about whether you think there is any usefulness to doing this in this way, whether you would suggest alternative weightings, different combinations of rankings, or if I have overlooked something (entirely possible, as I was paying more attention to your comments on the Angsting Thread than anything else when I put this together), etc. If it seems that folks are interested and that this might be useful, I can also post full ranking (I’ve ranked 194 journals). I am also working on an attempt to evaluate equivalencies between specialty journals and general ones, and I’m happy to take suggestions or share my initial thoughts on doing that if you’d like to get in touch.

The big movers here (in this ranking versus the average US News Overall Rank from 2010-2017) seem to be (but there are quite a few others who moved around):

  • New York Law School moved up a whopping 38 places (to #99);
  • Vermont moved up 31 places (to #91);
  • UC Irvine dropped 30 places (to #59);
  • Akron moved up 28 places (to #99);
  • Albany moved up 27 places (to #96).

Journals like Fordham (#26, up 10 places), Hastings (#36, up 12 places), Cardozo (#42, up 18 places), American (#46, up 11 places), and Lewis and Clark (#53, up 23 places) that have been frequently referred to in Angsting Thread comments as “hitting above their weight” all also improved at least 10 places (as did Missouri, Connecticut, Denver, Brooklyn, Chicago-Kent, Seattle, Oregon, Buffalo, Santa Clara, Indy, DePaul, South Carolina, St. Louis, Hofstra, Marquette, and Howard). Other journals dropping 10 or more places include: Arkansas-Fay., Kentucky, Georgia State, Temple, SMU, Arizona State, Georgia, and Alabama.

Other sizable moves in the top 20:

  • Chicago (#12) drops 7 places (Google’s ranking moderated the even more drastic difference between Chicago’s US News rank and W&L rank);
  • Iowa moved up 5 places (to #20);
  • Northwestern dropped 4 places (to #16);
  • Michigan (#6), Georgetown (#10), Texas (#11), and Notre Dame (#19) all moved up 4 places.

Finally, here are the top 100 ranking journals in the 2016 Meta-Ranking:

MetaRank

Journal

Change from USN Rank

MetaScore

Avg. USN Peer Rank

Avg. USN Overall Rank

W&L Rank

Google Rank

1

Harvard Law Review

1

1.5

1

2

2

1

2

The Yale Law Journal

-1

1.75

1

1

3

2

3

Stanford Law Review

0

2.75

3

3

1

4

4

Columbia Law Review

0

3.75

4

4

4

3

5

University of Pennsylvania Law Review

2

6.5

9

7

5

5

6

Michigan Law Review

4

8

8

10

8

6

7

California Law Review

1

9

7

8

12

9

8

New York University Law Review

-2

9.25

6

6

14

11

8

Virginia Law Review

1

9.25

9

9

9

10

10

The Georgetown Law Journal

4

9.75

13

14

6

6

11

Texas Law Review

4

12

15

15

10

8

12

University of Chicago L. Rev.

-7

12.75

5

5

25

16

12

Duke Law Journal

-1

12.75

11

11

16

13

14

Cornell Law Review

-1

13.25

12

13

15

13

15

UCLA Law Review

1

13.5

16

16

7

15

16

Northwestern University Law Review

-4

15.25

14

12

13

22

17

Minnesota Law Review

3

15.75

20

20

11

12

18

Vanderbilt Law Review

-1

17.5

17

17

20

16

19

Notre Dame Law Review

4

21.75

27

23

19

18

20

Iowa Law Review

5

22.5

27

25

18

20

21

Boston University Law Review

3

24.25

25

24

22

26

22

William and Mary Law Review

8

25.5

32

30

21

19

23

The George Washington L. Rev.

-2

26

23

21

29

31

23

North Carolina Law Review

11

26

21

34

28

21

25

Southern California Law Review

-7

26.5

19

18

32

37

26

Boston College Law Review

5

27.25

29

31

23

26

26

Fordham Law Review

10

27.25

35

36

16

22

26

Indiana Law Journal

0

27.25

30

26

27

26

26

Washington University Law Review

-7

27.25

18

19

37

35

30

Emory Law Journal

-8

27.5

22

22

36

30

31

Wisconsin Law Review

4

30.25

24

35

40

22

32

University of Illinois Law Rev.

6

31.25

34

38

24

29

33

U.C. Davis Law Review

-1

33

26

32

31

43

34

Florida Law Review

16

36

38

50

34

22

34

Washington Law Review

-6

36

37

28

30

49

36

Hastings Law Journal

12

37.25

36

48

33

32

37

Ohio State Law Journal

3

39

31

40

42

43

37

Washington and Lee Law Review

0

39

33

37

39

47

39

Arizona Law Review

4

39.25

41

43

38

35

40

Alabama Law Review

-13

40.75

42

27

45

49

41

Wake Forest Law Review

0

41.5

44

41

43

38

42

Cardozo Law Review

18

43

53

60

26

33

43

Georgia Law Review

-10

43.75

40

33

47

55

44

Connecticut Law Review

12

45.75

52

56

35

40

45

Colorado Law Review

0

46.25

43

45

50

47

46

American University Law Review

11

47

48

57

43

40

47

George Mason Law Review

-3

48.5

55

44

46

49

48

Brigham Young University Law Review

-6

49.5

50

42

54

52

49

Maryland Law Review

-2

50

47

47

61

45

50

Tulane Law Review

1

52.25

45

51

49

64

51

Utah Law Review

-5

56.5

51

46

57

72

52

Florida State University Law Review

0

56.75

49

52

58

68

53

Houston Law Review

1

57.25

66

54

51

58

53

Lewis & Clark Law Review

23

57.25

79

76

41

33

55

Pepperdine Law Review

-2

58.5

70

53

59

52

56

Arizona State L. Journal

-18

62.5

46

38

73

93

56

Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review

9

62.5

69

65

70

46

58

Missouri Law Review

22

65

65

80

60

55

59*

UC Irvine Law Review

-30

65.5

38

29

111

84

60

University of Cincinnati Law Review

7

66

74

67

55

68

60

University of Miami Law Review

6

66

54

66

67

77

62

Denver University Law Review

11

68

63

73

72

64

63

Brooklyn Law Review

16

69

67

79

53

77

64

Chicago-Kent Law Review

10

69.5

68

74

78

58

65

Seton Hall Law Review

2

70.25

84

67

78

52

66

SMU Law Review

-17

70.5

64

49

74

95

67

Tennessee Law Review

-4

70.75

62

63

65

93

68

The University of Kansas Law Review

7

71.25

61

75

81

68

68

Seattle University Law Review

24

71.25

89

92

66

38

70

Case Western Reserve Law Review

-9

71.5

59

61

85

81

70***

Penn State Law Review

0

71.5

91

70

67

58

72

Oregon Law Review

15

72.25

56

87

74

72

73

University of Richmond Law Review

-9

72.5

82

64

67

77

73

San Diego Law Review

-4

72.5

57

69

78

86

75

Buffalo Law Review

16

73.75

94

91

52

58

76

Temple Law Review

-18

74.25

60

58

84

95

77

Loyola University Chicago Law Journal

1

77.5

77

78

74

81

78

Santa Clara Law Review

22

78

74

100

74

64

79

Georgia State University Law Review

-21

80

76

58

114

72

80

Indiana Law Review

10

81

73

90

89

72

81

DePaul Law Review

23

83

99

104

48

81

82

South Carolina Law Review

19

83.5

94

101

71

68

83***

Rutgers University Law Review

3

83.75

72

86

91

86

84

Nevada Law Journal

-7

84.5

93

77

82

86

85

Kentucky Law Journal

-23

86

71

62

93

118

86

Louisiana Law Review

-3

86.5

101

83

98

64

87**

University of Pittsburgh Law Review

-6

87.75

58

81

106

 

88

Villanova Law Review

-3

88.25

86

85

96

86

89

Saint Louis University Law Journal

10

89.25

99

99

64

95

90

Nebraska Law Review

-8

90.25

78

82

88

113

91

Vermont Law Review

31

91

108

122

94

40

92

Hofstra Law Review

13

91.75

96

105

62

104

93

Marquette Law Review

10

92

87

103

83

95

94

Michigan State Law Review

2

92.75

102

96

55

118

95

Howard Law Journal

23

93

98

118

101

55

96

Albany Law Review

27

98

124

123

87

58

97

Catholic University Law Review

-2

98.75

90

95

97

113

98

Arkansas Law Review

-14

99.25

97

84

139

77

99

Akron Law Review

28

101.25

143

127

63

72

99

New York Law School Law Review

38

101.25

118

137

92

58

I have also calculated the Spearman's Rank Correlation Coefficient for the MetaRank versus each of the four underlying rankings (for schools ranked in the top 100 in the table above) and have charted the correlation (for all journals ranked 1-150 in the MetaRank).

 

USN

USNpr

Google

WLU

MetaRank

0.913

0.930

0.867

0.902

Notes about method: Google Scholar Metrics are currently based on the most recent Google index (updated to June 2015). Some journals that began after 2007 are effected by W&L’s ranking formula described here. Because the US News Ranking has changed how it reports 3rd and 4th Tier schools over the relevant period, I have done the following: for the 2010 and 2011 editions of the ranking, I gave all “Tier 3” schools a value of 115, and all “Tier 4” schools a 150; for 2012-2017, I assigned all unranked schools (those not ranked 1-149) to 150.

* As some journals were not included in the US News Rankings for all 8 years (e.g. UC Irvine was only in the 2016 and 2017 rankings), I have averaged the ranks over just the years they appear, rather than by 8.

** University of Pittsburgh Law Review is the only top 100 journal not included in Google Scholar, as such, I have used W&L’s rank twice to keep the impact portion of the ranking at 50%.

*** Rutgers recently consolidated two law journals into one and Penn State now also has two ranked law schools but only one flagship law review. For each of these schools, I have used the rank in each category (W&L/US News, etc.) that is the highest. Similarly (although not appearing in the top 100 reported here), Widener split and was ranked separately in 2017 by US News (each school taking a separate flagship journal). As such, I have used the separate 2017 ranks from US News but shared the single Widener school ranking reported in US News in its 2010-2016 editions of the rankings.

Last note: I cannot locate the 2015 US News Peer-Reputation rank for Loyola-New Orleans (it is missing from Paul Caron’s annual posting at TaxProf, and I don’t have access otherwise). If someone has that information (or even the underlying scores themselves) and could pass it along, I would appreciate it.

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 4, 2016 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (12)

Should I Say Write a Response to a Law Review Article (or Allow the Law Review to Solicit Responses to Mine)? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

It seems a growing trend for law reviews to solicit responses to articles they have selected for publication, with the responses appearing in the print volume or the law review's online companion. (I'll have a separate, more general question about publishing in online law reviews later this month.) The editors of my institution's main journal have been doing this for at least a few years now. I think this innovation is a great addition to the legal academy, but the reasons for that would distract from the questions that prompt this post.

Instead, my questions are two-fold: (1) Should junior law professors agree to write such responses? (2) Should junior law professors agree to have the editors solicit responses to their own articles?

I ask in part because a couple years ago the student editors here mentioned that as part of their sales pitch to publish a junior scholar's article, they mentioned that they would love to solicit responses (either based on names the author suggested or faculty suggestions here). The author's response surprised them: The author didn't think it was a good idea pretenure to have a review of/response to the article in print.

Putting to one side extenuating circumstances (and the cardinal "Ask Your Colleagues" rule), I think this is the wrong instinct, especially pretenure. Responses draw more attention to your scholarship, get you more in-depth feedback during the editing process from an expert in your field, and often can lead to a mentor (or closer colleague) in your field. Pretenure I was fortunate to receive responses on two articles. (Thanks Emily and Leandra!) In both instances, I received critical feedback during the editing process that I would have preferred to receive while I could make changes, instead of in an external review letter for tenure (or in subsequent published interaction with my work). Both scholars have become close mentors, and at least three or four conference invitations have resulted from those relationships built. The observations in their responses featured prominently in the promotion and tenure committee's memo to the faculty and dean recommending tenure. 

Whether to respond to someone's article is a tougher question, especially pretenure, as there are of course greater opportunity costs involved (than just agreeing to allow a response to your own article). Since joining the law faculty here I've written four separate response essays, with a fifth coming out next month. I confess that I haven't agreed to do so with the strategic goal of strengthening my voice in the field or building my tenure file. Instead, I've done so because I thought it would be fun, by allowing me to build on my own work, helping me interact with scholars I wanted to get to know better, and/or just learning something new. My sense is that my faculty didn't know what do to with these shorter responses when considering my tenure file (though there's an argument to be made that central administration probably found the additional publications helpful, especially when they are accustomed to seeing many more publications in a tenure file in other disciplines).

In sum, allowing (indeed encouraging) editors to publish responses to your law review articles seems like a best practice for a junior scholar, but I'm not as sure about expending the time to publish responses to others' work. I've thoroughly enjoyed publishing responses and think responses generally add a lot of value to the legal academy (at least in my field), but one needs to consider the opportunity costs. I'm curious to hear what others think.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 4, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, April 02, 2016

How Do I Become a Voice in My Field? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

Thanks Howard for the introduction, and thanks PrawfsBlawg for hosting me this month. By way of introduction, I’m a law professor at The Ohio State University where I teach civil procedure, constitutional litigation, legislation and regulation, and state and local government law as well as teach in our Washington DC summer program. My research focuses primarily on administrative law.

Because I blog regularly on administrative law over at the Yale Journal on Regulation, I want to use this opportunity to blog about something else. Having just gone through the tenure process (awaiting Board of Trustees approval), I’ve thought a lot this year about how to become a voice in my field—both pretenure and shortly after tenure. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded here by a terrific cohort of junior scholars with diverse research interests. Many of our conversations inevitably turn to questions related to maximizing the impact of our precious research time. (Similar conversations, of course, take place with our more senior colleagues.)

I’m guessing we’re not atypical in that respect, as evident by the multiple posts here and elsewhere that address similar questions. That said, I’d love to leverage the collective wisdom of this community to crowdsource answers to a dozen or so questions that junior scholars think about pretenure and shortly after tenure. I'm going to focus on research-related questions (not teaching or service), and all hopefully relate to the larger question of this post about how to become a voice in one's field.

Some of these questions are captured in the outline below—an outline my junior colleagues and I brainstormed at one of our junior faculty workshops a couple years ago. Please don't hesitate to add to the outline in the comments. If you have additional questions you want me to raise as a post, just shoot me an email or include as a comment here. If blog posts (or other publications) already provide an answer, kindly include those links in the comments. Same goes for if you think I'm not asking the right question(s). At the end of the month I’ll assemble all of these in a one-post FAQ for ease of reference.

Below is the outline. I’ll circle back on Monday with my first question.

  • Traditional Approaches to Legal Scholarship
    1. Law Review Articles
    2. Book Reviews in Law Reviews
    3. Symposium Contributions / Organizer of Symposium
    4. Book Chapters / Editor of Book
    5. Academic Press Books
    6. Casebooks / Treatises / Supplements
  • Newer/ish Approaches to Legal Scholarship
    1. Peer-review Articles
    2. Coauthored Scholarship
    3. Interdisciplinary and Empirical Work
    4. Online Law Reviews
    5. Online Law Review Responses
    6. Trade Magazines/Journals/Websites
    7. Jotwell
    8. Online Scholarly Outlets
    9. Op-Eds & Media Consults
    10. White Papers & Other Practitioner or Policy-Oriented Publications
    11. Law Professor Briefs and Of Counsel Filings
    12. Blogging
  • Other Scholarly Activities To Magnify Scholarship, Voice, and Networks
    1. Comment on Works in Progress of Those in Field
    2. Invite Scholars in Field to Your Law School
    3. Conferences & Work-in-Progress Sessions: AALS, regional conferences, junior scholars workshops, and other field-specific gatherings
    4. Organizing Colloquia, Symposia, Conferences, and Other Scholarly Gatherings
    5. Practice-Oriented Groups: ABA, etc.
    6. Scholarship Circulation: Offprints, Emails, SSRN, BE Press, Academia.edu
    7. Ideas Circulation: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
    8. Editorial Boards of Field-Specific Journals, eJournals, and other Publications
    9. Participation in Field-Specific Email List Services, eJournals
    10. Fellowship and Other Funding Opportunities
    11. International Opportunities for Research, Teaching, and Scholarly Interaction
    12. Consulting Opportunities within field, practice area, government, nonprofit, etc.

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 2, 2016 at 09:30 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, March 21, 2016

LAWn Signs

Started by Andrew Ferguson (UDC) and Stephen Henderson (Oklahoma).

Final-sign-no4Now I want a t-shirt that says "I want a lawyer."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 21, 2016 at 01:54 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Dean Search: Concordia University School of Law

Concordia University School of Law is searching for a new Dean: http://law.cu-portland.edu/about/school-law-dean-search

Please consider applying if you are qualified, and spread the word to colleagues who would be interested.  If you have any questions, Chad DeVeaux (cdeveaux@cu-portland.edu) is on the search committee and would be happy to help.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 8, 2016 at 05:45 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tradition!

Len Strickman was the Founding Dean of FIU College of Law, serving in that role from 2001-2009 before joining the faculty for the past six years. Len is retiring and taught his final class ever this afternoon. To mark the occasion, some faculty members entered the classroom at the end of the period to applaud the end of class. This idea came from a colleague who attended Notre Dame Law School, where this was the common practice (is that still true, Rick?). It is a cool tradition and nice to be a part of.

Only 40 more years . . .

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 25, 2016 at 07:01 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I, for one, welcome our new robot Law Lords.

Friends, I've been a terrible guest-blogger so far this month. My apologies. Life (and teaching... mostly teaching) intervened.

But one of the things I'm teaching is an experimental yearlong project-based seminar called the Policy Lab (link is somewhat obsolete), where students spend the first semester learning about an area of legal policy, and the second designing innovations to work on it. And for this first run-through, students have been thinking about legal technology and access to justice. They've learned about things like predictive coding, multijurisdictional tech-driven delivery of legal services, and artificial intelligence, and they've had virtual as well as physical visits from experts and people making waves in the area, including Dan Katz, Jake Heller, Stephen Poor, Tim Hwang, and Craig Cook, as well as more local folks---and now they're working on designing (though not fully implementing) technological tools to provide legal knowledge to nonprofits, as well as policy analyses of, e.g., the ethical implications of such tools. I'm really proud of them.

I'm also a confirmed parking and traffic scofflaw, who once beat a parking ticket with a procedural due process claim, and also once beat a speeding ticket by getting testimony about the laser evidence chucked on the good-old Frye standard (back in grad school, when that standard applied in California). So imagine my delight when I saw this story: "A 19-year-old made a free robot lawyer that has appealed $3 million in parking tickets". A Stanford kid, Joshua Browder, has written a webapp that (as far as I can discern without trying it out or seeing the code) quizzes people about their parking tickets (U.K. only, alas) in natural language, invokes what is sometimes called an expert system to discern a defense for them, then provides an appeal for them to file. Obviously, I have lots of questions and thoughts about this after the fold.

First, is this legal in the U.K.? How do folks feel about the unauthorized practice of law on the other side of the pond? And what about California? On some aggressive interpretations of UPL rules, we might think that the awesome kid is practicing British law in California. As this kind of service, and the services provided by companies like RocketLawyer, LegalZoom, and the like become more customized, and interact with people more like lawyers interact with clients, the UPL questions are going to get harder and harder. The natural language aspect of the parking ticket thing feels to me more like legal practice: you can easily imagine a client trusting an interactive, English-speaking app more than they might trust a more web 1.0 or 2.0 system of drop-down menus and such. Are the regulators going to quash this (especially now that he's looking to expand to New York), or are they going to get out of the way?

Second, to me, this level of legal tech innovation seems like an unmitigated good. Is there anyone scrutinizing the behavior of parking enforcement authorities right now (given that it's far too small-fry in most cases for lawyers), or is the parking ticket system in many cities nothing but taxation by another name, buttressed by the total lack of any real opportunity to challenge them? Browder might look closer to his temporary home, given that San Francisco is kind of notorious for its abusive parking tickets and they've been resisting the use of other automated systems to squeeze out a droplet of due process from the machine. As I've argued previously on this blog, nickel-and-diming people to death with penny-ante law enforcement directed at ordinary day-to-day behaviors is a threat to the kind of ideas underlying the rule of law, and maybe software can fix it where lawyers can't.

Third, to fellow prawfs: as folks like Dan Katz and Oliver Goodenough keep reminding us, this is coming to the rest of the law. Right now, the advances seem mostly to be looming over the discovery process, with stuff like predictive coding threatening to be the second level of the inexorable process of stripping the legal profession of the rents generated by document review (where outsourcing and offshoring were the first), as well as to relatively small-scale stuff like parking tickets, leases, etc. for small players. But as the technology gets more sophisticated, it has the potential to supplement or replace lawyers in more areas of law. (Right now, the most hubristic claims are being made by an early-stage startup called Ross... but what happens if those claims turn out to be even sort-of true?) What can we as law professors do about it?

One option is to get a lot better about teaching our students to be more comfortable with technology, as users as well as creators, even to the point of trying to teach them programming and machine learning. That's a strategy I'm interested in exploring further, but I also have some skepticism about it. It doesn't obviously follow from the danger of technology supplanting lawyers that the lawyers who will be best positioned to survive are those who are capable of operating in both domains. Whether that's true depends on the shape of the ultimate market: will it actually demand people with both legal skill and technological skill (perhaps to translate from one to the other), or will it favor people with pure technological skill plus a handful of really good lawyers to handle the most high-level work? My crystal ball isn't sharp enough to tell me, though I'm encouraging my students to tech up to the extent possible in order to hedge their bets. But what else can we do?

Posted by Paul Gowder on February 24, 2016 at 06:55 PM in Life of Law Schools, Science, Teaching Law, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

CFP: Rule of Law-Religious Perspecives

Journal of Law, Religion & State

International Conference: Rule of Law – Religious Perspectives

Call for Papers

The encounter of religion with the rule of law may generate tension but also mutual inspiration. The rule of law implies law’s supremacy over other normative systems and personal commitments. It also implies that law applies to everyone equally. Religion represents a normative system that may in some areas be different from—and stand in opposition to—state law. Religion may deny the supremacy of state law and pose divine law as supreme instead. It may, alternatively, seek exemptions from state law in those matters where the two conflict.

In this conference we seek to study this tension and discuss the following questions:
  • Does religion (in general or a specific religion) accept the rule of state law?
  • What are the boundaries (if any) of such acceptance?
  • In what cases would religion challenge state law and in what cases would it seek exemptions?
  • Can a policy of multiculturalism and of legal pluralism, which give more room to religious freedom, be reconciled with the rule of law or does it undermine it?
  • What other policies should states follow in response to these tensions?

Religion may not only compete with state law but also inspire it, which leads us to investigate religion’s various understandings of the rule of law. Here is just one example. The concept of law in the context of the rule of law is ambiguous and open to different interpretations. Some (positivists) understand law as a set of rules fixed by social institutions, and others (natural law advocates) understand law as if it includes fundamental principles of justice and morality. Religions may take a position in that debate and contribute not only to the abstract understanding of law, but also to the identification of those moral principles that are part of law. We therefore also plan to explore the following:

  • What is the position of religion with regard to the concept of law and the rule of law?
  • Many religions developed partial or comprehensive legal systems of their own. Did religions also develop a concept of rule of law? What is its scope and meaning?
  • The concept of rule of law also may be used in theological context as a metaphor to understand the boundaries of divine actions and intervention in the world. Is God constrained by law—and by what kind of law: law of nature, morality?

These and similar questions will be discussed in an international conference that will be held at Bar-Ilan University School of Law, Ramat-Gan, Israel, on November 20-22, 2016.

Submissions are invited on the themes outlined above. An abstract of 500 (max.) words should be sent to jlrs@biu.ac.il no later than­­­­­­ April 15, 2016. Please indicate academic affiliation and attach a short CV. The conference committee will notify applicants of papers acceptance by the beginning of June, 2016. The participants will be required to submit a first (full) draft of their papers three weeks before the conference. The final papers will be published in the Journal of Law Religion and State subject to review.

The organizing committee:

Dr. Haim Shapira, Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Prof. Michael Helfand, Faculty of Law, Pepperdine University, USA

Prof. Zvi Zohar, Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

JLRS website: http://www.brill.com/publications/journals/journal-law-religion-and-state

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 24, 2016 at 01:29 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fellowship: HLS Program on Corporate Governance

The Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance is seeking applications from highly qualified candidates who are interested in working with the Program as post-doctoral fellows or senior associates in the fields of corporate governance and/or law and finance. It is an excellent opportunity for someone with a corporate law or similar background who is interested in a career as a law professor or other pursuits in academia. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis.  Any candidates who are interested in the Fellowship or would like more information are very welcome to email the coordinator of the Program, at coordinator@corpgov.law.harvard.edu.

For more information about the position, including required qualifications and application materials, please visit the program website.   

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 22, 2016 at 09:04 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How Being a Struggling Student of Talmud Made Me a Better Professor of Law

My mother passed away last March. With my dad’s passing six years earlier, my brother and I suddenly found ourselves parentless while still in our 30s. Dealing with the grief has been difficult enough. Equally difficult in many ways has been the challenge of administering my mom’s estate—working through the modern morass of medical forms, bills, taxes, mail and magazine subscriptions, bank accounts, and credit cards is essentially a second full-time job. It turns out that dying in the twenty-first century involves a tremendous amount of paperwork.

The silver lining to all this, I suppose, is that acting as personal representative of my mom’s estate has allowed (forced?) me to employ several long-dormant aspects of my legal education. I have reviewed more contracts, communicated with more federal and state agencies, and spent more time at the probate court clerk’s office in the last year than at any time since I left full-time practice (and maybe ever). Like working an underused muscle for the first time in a long time, doing this kind of legal work is simultaneously invigorating, exhausting, and humbling. I am despondent about the circumstances, but grateful for the experience.

The circumstances have created another unexpected educational benefit: I have been reintroduced to the awesome challenge of Talmud study. In a year when many things have been cloudy and overwhelming, a weekly dip into Talmudic debates has sharpened my mind and changed some of my perspective on teaching.

The Talmud is a compilation of commentaries surrounding Judaism’s Oral Law (that is, the law said to be provided directly to Moses and orally transmitted through the generations, before the teachings were compiled in written form around 200 CE). Serious Talmud scholars intensely focus on a single page of text each day (Daf Yomi). A statement of law or practice in the center of the page is accompanied (literally surrounded) by a variety of rabbinic debates on the meaning and application of the statement, or offering proof for the statement. Commentaries build upon commentaries, and pull in citations from a variety of other textual sources. For a very rough sense of what it feels like, imagine a treatise on the First Amendment written by a squabbling committee of brilliant academics over the course of several centuries, and referencing a dizzying array of cases, law review articles, statutes, regulations, and local practices.

My entry into the Talmudic waters has been far less intense than daily study, but still offers plenty to digest. I meet with a small group of adult learners once a week shortly before evening minyan (the service that permits me to say Kaddish, the obligatory mourning prayer said daily for eleven months after a parent’s death). We have an excellent instructor, who is both prepared and patient. I dutifully bring my book, puzzle over the debates with the others around the table, and try to understand each strand of argument line by line, paragraph by paragraph.

In some ways, my legal training has been immensely helpful for this kind of work. I can easily recognize and appreciate some of the tools of argumentation: reasoning by analogy, reasoning from history, reasoning by custom, etc. It’s Cardozo, 1500 years before Cardozo. In other ways, my American legal training is virtually useless: because the debates in the Talmud operate in a closed environment in which text, history, and practice are of divine origin, the policy arguments that animate difficult legal questions in our time are noticeably absent. You cannot just say, “Why does any of this matter? “ One must take it as a given that it matters—even when the debate is about something as arcane as when to celebrate the New Year for Vegetables. (Yes. Really.) Nor can one simply dismiss a purported proof text as wrong; since the point of the exercise is to explain the law rather than develop or discover it, rejection of one proof requires the submission of an alternative proof. Once you accept these parameters, it’s a wonderful stretching exercise for the logical mind.

More strikingly, my journey into Talmud study has been humbling. If you were to ask me at the end of each study session whether I understood what we covered, the answer would be an unequivocal yes—and an unequivocal no. I understand the scope of the debate as presented in the limited form we discussed, but at the same time I realize how little I understand of how it fits into the larger discussion. So I get it—and I don’t. And it occurs to me that only years of consistent and rigorous study will truly make some of it clear (or more accurately, clearer).

This realization has had effects on the way I teach civil procedure. My own experience suggests to me that student silence (especially among 1Ls) almost certainly does not have a uniform meaning. Some students may be quiet because they are unprepared and cannot follow the discussion in a meaningful way. Others may think they understand, but need time to process the discussion and rearticulate it in their own words. They are not ready to ask questions or jump in. Still others may understand the terms of the specific discussion we are engaged in at the moment, but (like me at Talmud study) don’t know enough (or don’t feel comfortable enough) trying to tie it together to other topics in the course. I have to try to reach all of these groups in different ways—through classroom discussion, formative assessment methods, and one-on-one meetings.

So I will stick with Talmud study, even when my other executor duties are complete. I think my mom would approve.

I would be curious to hear from others who had the simultaneous experience of being a teacher in one discipline and a student in another. How did your experience in one area influence your approach to the other?

Posted by Jordan Singer on January 20, 2016 at 10:35 AM in Culture, Legal Theory, Religion, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Reply All

When I was first starting out in the gig, one of my mentors gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me. Don't write replies. Even if your paper is essentially a response to someone, don't frame it that way. Build the response into a larger claim.

But there was more to it: definitely respond. Engagement is key. The conversation is what matters. Disagree, amplify, make subtle distinctions. Just don't frame the paper around the reply.

I've followed this advice and given it myself. Yet I've never really considered. Why not reply?

My sense--and I'm fine being wrong about this--is that the advice is driven by the submission process. By pitching the paper as a response to someone, we give the appearance of a limited contribution. The law review submission process is a black box on its best days. So it makes sense for scholars, especially junior scholars in search of tenure, to avoid submission formats that won't play well with the acquisition editors. Maybe that's always good advice, whether in a law journal or peer review situation. Or maybe the "no reply" rule isn't widespread. Frankly, I don't know.

But I welcome thoughts. Please and thank you.

Posted by Zachary Kramer on January 11, 2016 at 02:34 PM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Mentors

Thanks to Howard and rest of the Prawfs crew for having me.

Starting this semester, I'm transitioning into a administrative position. As of this month, I hold the very sexy title "Acting Associate Dean for Faculty." Fitting for a Skakespearean trained associate dean like myself.

One of the eggs in my administrative basket is our junior faculty mentoring program. Program is a heavy word. Like a lot of schools, much of our mentoring happens on the fly. Don't get me wrong, we mentor hard; it's one of the things our faculty does best. But I'm wondering if we can improve things. When things are going well, tinker with them, right?

For me, the guiding principle of mentoring is always to remember that it's not my career. Too often mentors try to recreate themselves. Which is, of course, not surprising: if it worked for me, surely it will work for you. The problem is that being law professor is an individual sport. While there is collective wisdom to build on, ultimately we have to be ourselves in our teaching and writing. And that's often the most daunting part when you're just starting out in the gig.

But I'm eager to hear thoughts, concerns, suggestions. Please, thank you, or sorry, as the case may be.

Posted by Zachary Kramer on January 7, 2016 at 10:00 PM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Commercial Law Curriculum Redo

The following bleg comes from Wayne Barnes (Texas A&M), David Epstein (Richmond), Paula Franzese (Seton Hall), and Kevin Tu (New Mexico), on their plan to redo the place of Commercial Law in the curriculum. Address responses to any of them.

More and more law schools are no longer regularly offering three-credit courses in (1) payment systems, (2) secured transactions, and/or  (3) sales.  In part because these schools do not have faculty members who want to teach the courses.  And, in part because students do not sign up for commercial law courses.  Even if the commercial law courses are taught from 11-12 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

 

And, the students are, of course, right.  Most students do not need 42 class hours of payment systems or 42 hours of secured transactions or 42 hours more of sales.  However, lawyers in a general civil practice do need to have familiarity with core commercial law concepts in order to master the specific statutory provisions that govern the transaction or litigation matter that they are working on.  And, before that, there is a need to pass the state bar exam.

 

We propose that those needs can best be meet in a two credit course covering just the core commercial law concepts and are working on course materials for such a course.    We welcome your reasoned arguments against  this proposal.  Even more welcome would be your suggestions as to how 28 class hours can most effectively be used by students learning core commercial concepts.

 

Look forward to seeing you at the AALS and/or receiving your emails.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 16, 2015 at 05:01 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Not a threat, still a problem

Like Paul, I lean towards the less charitable reading of the statement by the producers of Hunting Ground. But I did not read it as a threat to any action. Rather, I read it as a normative position--anyone who publicly disagrees with our position is irresponsible, shows public bias, and contributes to a hostile educational environment. This disagreement makes little practical difference, since my reading of their position still renders discussion or debate about the film impossible--why should they be expected to be debate anyone putting forth such an irresponsible and hostile position? But it is of a piece with some of what we have heard in the recent blow-ups at Mizzou, Yale, etc.--the very utterance of the contrary position deprives me of my safe space, inflicts harm, and violates my rights, thereby giving me a reason not to engage with it.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 5, 2015 at 02:59 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

ABA-LSD realizes it screwed up

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the ABA Law Student Division's National Appellate Advocacy Competition, which featured an appellate court unanimously reversing a district judge in a hate-crimes prosecution by saying "We fear that [the district judge] allowed his personal feelings as a black man to color his view of the evidence."

The LSD has released a revised record, with that line removed. Good for them for coming to their senses (presumably following some loud complaints), although without explanation, apology, or acknowledgement of the change or the original mistake. And I remain appalled that the drafters would have included such a line in the first place. It will be interesting to see if there is longer-term fallout from this.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 24, 2015 at 03:11 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Doonesbury on student evaluations

Doonesbury

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 22, 2015 at 05:08 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (9)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Civ Pro and the lagging bar exam

Civ Pro is now a subject on the Multistate Bar Exam. But I learned earlier today that the questions are not going to incorporate the 2015 discovery amendments until 2018. In the meantime, test-takers are expected to know (and bar prep courses are going to teach) the rules as of 2012 and current jurisdiction/procedure statutes.

This strikes me as insane.  I intentionally taught my Spring 2015 students the amended rules, knowing that passage was inevitable (I would have done the same this fall were I teaching the class then), knowing that this is the law they would use as lawyers, even if it won't be effective for another few months. Now it turns out they need to learn something entirely different in between. In other words, the final "vetogate" before the practice of law requires them to learn law that is different than what they learned in school and different from what they will actuallysue on the other side of the vetogate. It makes even less sense given that the Bar is using current statutes along with the old rules--if the questions can remain up-to-date on statutes without imposing an enormous exam-writing problem, they should be able to remain up-to-date on the rules.

Update I: In response to a comment, I have not heard any explanation, only a statement to bar prep/academic support folks that they should continue using the current prep manual until 2018.

Update II: An emailer points out that it may not have as great an effect on Civ Pro teachers, as the current 1Ls, the first group to deal with the amended rules, will take the Bar in 2018, the first year of testing on the new rules. But, as I noted above, it punishes the past students of profs who attempt to be proactive about rules changes (as did last spring). And it leaves questions about what to do in, for example, Advanced Civ Pro/Complex Lit, Pretrial Practice, or other upper-level courses that deal with the FRCP? For that matter, consider students doing a clinic/internship involving federal practice or a judicial clerkship--current 2Ls and 3Ls are going to deal with one version of discovery now and a very different version for the Bar.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 19, 2015 at 08:30 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (8)