Category Archives: Law school

Susskind on The End of Lawyers

I’m belatedly reading Richard Susskind’s 2008 book, The End of Lawyers, and finding it particularly relevant in light of the debates on legal education stirred up most recently by Paul Campos at Inside the Law School Scam.

Susskind writes at “1.3 A Journey” (I’m reading the Kindle version, so no page number):

To recap, the four thoughts that contributed to the writing of this book are as follows: (1) lawyers might fade from society as other craftsmen have done over the centuries; (2) lawyers are denying that they are lawyers because they recognize the need to change and diversify in response to shifts in the market; (3) no-one seems to be worrying about the fate of the next generation of lawyers; and (4) the delivery of legal services will be a very different business when financed and managed by non-lawyers.

As insightful and provocative as Campos’s current blog project is, even he (at least so far) doesn’t appear to question the continuance of business as usual in the legal profession; he simply argues that law school does not (and has not for many decades) adequately prepare law students for practice upon graduation. In fact, law school has probably never done that, but for many years, the unspoken understanding (the “Cravath model“) was that law associates would be trained on the job by large law firms–and that the lucky few would eventually make partner, while the rest would presumably move on to other firms, if they were not already burned out by years of tedious practice.

William Henderson and others have certainly noted the end of the Cravath model. Many suspect that the law firm market is currently undergoing not just a cyclical downturn, but a long-term restructuring that will result in leaner firms unwilling or unable to continue their customary training function. Susskind, however, goes beyond that to suggest that much of what has been traditionally seen as lawyers’ exclusive domain will be unbundled and taken over by other professions and semi-professions. Lawyers, after all, are information professionals, not that much unlike librarians, journalists, and other professions currently threatened by changing technologies. It is unlikely that the professional guild and it’s regulations (either in the form of law school accreditation or control over ethical rules and bar admissions) can keep technology and the marketplace at bay forever.

The Internet: Is This a Thing Any More?

One of my two courses this semester is the unfortunately-named “Law of Internet Speech.”  I say it’s unfortunately named because, although I think it’s an important and timely course that should attract a lot of students, and I took the name directly from the Madeleine Schachter and Joel Kurtzberg casebook, I only have seven students.   (My other course, a seminar on Law and Social Issues in Cyberspace, drew eleven students.)  So I wonder: is there something about the name that makes it look unattractive to students (besides the fact that it’s not a bar course)?

From Flickr, by eflon

So perhaps my younger readers can tell me: is “the Internet” even a thing any more? Does it make sense to speak of “the Internet” as something with an identifiable shape and presence? Or is it now simply the transparent and invisible infrastructure on which so much human activity now takes place.  When a student Googles a research topic or a restaurant menu, texts a friend to go to dinner, posts photos of the meal on Flickr, and then posts on his or her Facebook wall about how wasted he or she got after dinner, does that student think of all those things as “using the Internet”?  Or are they (in one sense) discrete activities with their own sphere of reference, or (in another sense) just part of what you do in your daily life, like brushing your teeth?

I also wonder: what is the purpose of a course on online speech and privacy (which is really the scope of “Law of Internet Speech”) when there is a general First Amendment course on the schedule?  One of the points I want to make in this course is that all speech is Internet speech now.  Even the traditional subjects of free speech law–newspapers and other mass media–exist primarily online, and there is some doubt whether print newspapers will survive in anything like their traditional form.  And public speech or assembly?  In a world of ubiquitous digital video, they derive most of their impact–and are often stage-directed toward–online distribution and publicity.

So as I continue to shape this course, perhaps it’s best to think of it as a course on the shape of freedom of speech (and of the press) in a world of ubiquitous and instantaneous digital communication.

(ADDENDUM: Lest anyone think I’m not pulling my weight, next year I’ll be teaching a required course in legal ethics.)

Outcome Measures in Law School and Value Billing in Law Firms

I suppose this is completely obvious to everyone else, but it just struck me: the ABA Committee on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar’s proposed standards requiring outcomes measurements in legal education are completely consistent with clients’ demands for value billing.

Best Practices for Legal Education

I just saw that  the Outcome Measures Report is posted on the ABA web site.  The Outcome Measure Committee was chaired by Randy Hertz and is a tour de force.  The Report cites Best Practices and the Carnegie Report extensively, it then goes on to look at legal education in other countries, accreditation in other disciplines and regional accreditation standards for universities and colleges.  The Report concludes that the ABA accreditation standards should be less “input driven” and more “outcome  driven”.   It even begins to consider the costs of this shift in accreditation standards. Check out the report!

The Anchor Plate

It’s 2010 and the client revolution is in full swing — lawyers are finding that they may just have to justify their bills based on the value received by their clients, not just the amount of time the lawyers devoted to a matter. If you think about it, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but somehow it seems like virgin territory for many lawyers.

Goodbye, AALL

This year, for only the second time in 24 years, I’m not attending the AALL (American Association of Law Libraries) Annual meeting. Since I decided to change careers, resign from my position as law library director, and pursue teaching and scholarship, there’s really no reason for me to go to the AALL conference–except to see all of my law librarian friends.

Being a law professor is a pretty sweet gig, no doubt about it.  Don’t be fooled, though: it is a lot of work. Especially for a newer law professor (even if I was an old-timer as a librarian), course preparation takes a lot of time. I’m teaching four new courses this coming year, none of which I’ve taught before. I know something about information privacy law and cyberspace law; those courses come in Spring 2010. Right now I’m working on a new course on electronic discovery, and preparing to co-teach a seminar on religion, cognitive science, and law.  These are all interesting and fun areas to research, but it’s lonely work.  That’s the biggest change from library work. As a librarian, I was part of a team, and I had (for good or bad) daily contact with colleagues and staff. As a law professor, I can work for days without anyone bothering me.

Law professors generally like working alone. Law librarians generally like working in teams. Librarianship is a more social profession than being a law professor, and this difference can be seen in the ways law librarians and law professors treat conferences.

I always looked forward to the AALL annual meeting. There were always a few good educational programs, although I found that the most important learning opportunities for me came from the spaces around and between the programs. It wasn’t so much that I learned new things, but the opportunity to have a few days away from the daily grind and to chat, share a drink, and talk with my friends and colleagues in other libraries was always stimulating and inspiring. I always came back with new ideas and a new passion for my work. (Soon enough, much of that passion dissipated in the face of the same old challenges at work, but that’s another story.)  For me, it was the time spent with my friends and colleagues that was most important and most valuable.

Law professors don’t seem to see conferences the same way. Under the austerity travel policies now in place at many law schools, faculty get travel support to attend conferences only if they’re delivering papers. Learning from other presenters isn’t a good enough reason to attend a conference. And to be honest, I don’t see many law professors complaining about that policy. At conferences like AALS, many law professors prefer to fly in for the day, give their paper, and then leave–there is no time for the personal networking that goes on at library conferences. Individual law schools host their own receptions at AALS, but with 15 or 20 small receptions going on simultaneously, it’s hard to say what they’re for. I suspect it’s what the economists call “signaling”: our law school is important enough to have alumni teaching at other schools.  At any rate, it doesn’t seem to promote the sort of personal networking that is such an important part of AALL.

It may be that this will change with time. Will the Gen Y and Millennial law professors of the future place more value on personal relationships with their friends and colleagues in other schools–or even those just down the hall? Or are the institutional traditions of law school strong enough to resist change? Faculty at the elite and wannabe schools come with a built-in network–they all went to Yale or Harvard. Will faculty at the top 25/50/75/100 schools find any value in getting to know faculty colleagues at bottom 100 schools, and vice versa? Time will tell. For now, I’m glad to be able to participate vicariously in AALL2009 through Twitter.  Keep in touch!

Has the time for listservs passed?

Greg Lambert asks (as reported by Joe Hodnick) on the Law Librarian Blog: “Is it time to retire listservs”?

Not yet, according to Greg Lambert, library and records manager for King & Spalding LLP in Houston and blogger at one of my newest favorite blogs, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. See Lambert’s Where Do Listservs Fit in a Social Media World? AALL Spectrum, June 2009. The networking tool of the 1990s is inefficient but remain easy to use, convenient and useful. “As long as we have e-mail, we’ll have listservs” writes Lambert. “That said, their heyday has come and gone. Social media tools and Web 2.0 resources are becoming the communication tools of choice and will eventually push listservs to the background.” Lambert proceeds with a discussion of his two favorite social networking alternatives to listservs: Twitter and Nings. Of the two, Nings gets my thumbs up. [JH]

I raised a similar question on the lawprof listserv a couple of weeks ago in response to an AALS initiative to create new member-only listservs for the various sections. I asked whether listservs are really relevant anymore when I get most of my important law-related discussion from blogs. Most of the professors responding, however, said they relied heavily on listservs.

I don’t think Twitter will ever catch on among law professors; the vast majority of them still sneer at Twitter. The reason why, I think, was well explained by one of my JD/PhD colleagues on the law faculty here. Scholars–especially those who have gone through rigorous PhD training, like most new law faculty entering the profession today, have had perfectionism drilled into them. They are literally incapable of committing to online words ideas that have not been fully worked out, rigorously analyzed, exhaustively cited, and tested at a series of faculty workshops. Spontaneity is not a value to them.

Of course, there are a few law professors currently on Twitter, and will no doubt be more, but I don’t think Twitter will ever be a significant medium for communication among law professors. As for communication between law professors and those outside the academy: few law profs have any interest in communicating with non-academics. The reasons for this are left as an exercise for the reader.