Over the course of the six years I have taught here, the Law School’s technological resources have gotten better and better. For instance, every classroom in which I teach now has equipment that allows me to project documents onto a screen at the front of the classroom, working on edits as we discuss them in the classroom. I can project from the web as I discuss legal research tools, such as the law library’s helpful start page. I can play audio or video files for the class, such as tapes of oral arguments from oyez.org or from the Wisconsin Supreme Court site for my appellate writing and advocacy class.
Most recently, with the help of our IT department I have been using digital recording technology (a headset microphone and audacity software) to record some of my instruction and make it available for students to work through at their convenience. The podcasts are especially effective for material that some students need more help with than others, such as citation, grammar and punctuation, or editing for conciseness. Last semester, my students’ responses to the podcasts was overwhelmingly positive.
The pioneer podcaster among the legal writing faculty was Alison Julien, who, I understand, has moved on to “webcasting,” i.e., digital videorecordings of her instruction.
I recently screened The Paper Chase (1973) in one of my law school classes. While the majority of current law students are more familiar with recent pop cultural portrayals of legal education such as Legally Blonde (2001), The Paper Chase seems to me to set the stage for those portrayals, especially through the character of Professor Kingsfield and the images from his menacing Socratic classes. I interpret The Paper Chase as the fictional story of a law student encountering and then overcoming the dehumanizing forces of legal education. Continue reading “The Paper Chase: What Does the Film Tell Us About Contemporary Legal Education?”
When I became a legal writing professor, one of the first and most surprising things I learned was how important the “IRAC” (Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion) formula has become in most legal writing teaching nowadays. Almost every legal writing textbook relies on some version of the formula. In fact, so many legal writing professors have developed their own personalized version of the formula that the variations of the acronym form a dizzying alphabet soup: CREAC, CRuPAC, RAFADAC, IRLAFARC, etc., etc., etc.
The rise of IRAC seems to have gone hand in hand with the increasing professionalization of legal writing teaching. At the same time, legal writing teachers have long debated the uses and misuses of IRAC in legal writing and in legal writing teaching. For example, almost the entire November 1995 issue of The Second Draft (bulletin of the Legal Writing Institute) was devoted to the question of “The Value of IRAC.” Continue reading “Did You Learn About IRAC in Law School? How Did IRAC Become Such an Important Part of Legal Writing Teaching? And Should it Be?”
Law deans, faculty, and of course students obsess a great deal over the rankings put out annually by the US News and World Report. Some like the rankings, and some hate them. Some find them important, while others dismiss them. Some propose improvements, while others suggest alternatives. Some join anti-US News letter-writing campaigns or even try to organize anti-US News boycotts (nothwithstanding that a concerted boycott of US News would seem to be an antitrust violation, given that horizontal group boycotts are per se violations of section 1 of the Sherman Act under the Supreme Court’s decisions in NYNEX and Klor’s).
But whatever one might think about the US News’s rankings, there can be no doubt that they evoke strong feelings, as attested to most recently by the many reactions in the legal blogosphere to this story on the rankings in last week’s Wall Street Journal. Because of the high level of interest in them, the rankings are a favorite (and possibly the overall most frequently written on) theme of law faculty blogging. Indeed, it almost seems as though a blogger who has yet to opine on the rankings subject cannot be taken seriously. So, lest I be thought an unserious blogger, here is a suggestion for how the US News’s law school rankings might be improved or replaced that has largely, though not entirely, been overlooked. (After drafting this blog entry I did a Google “preemption check” and noticed that a recent comment on the Moneylaw blog makes a suggestion that is similar to mine, and a somewhat more extended treatment is offered by Andrew Morris and Bill Henderson in a recent paper.)
The basic idea is this: why not use bar exam scores as a way to rank law schools? Continue reading “Bar Exam Scores as a Law School Ranking Metric”
Dalton Conley, a sociologist at NYU, has an op-ed in today’s New York Times arguing that something novel has happened to the life of leisure: it isn’t very leisurely anymore. “[I]t is now the rich who are the most stressed out and the most likely to be working the most. Perhaps for the first time since we’ve kept track of such things, higher-income folks work more hours than lower-wage earners do.”
Conley hypothesizes that this intriguing development is the result of greater disparity in incomes at the top end of the scale — what he calls an “economic red shift.” That is, the richer you are, the faster people at the wealth level just above you seem to be pulling away. Combine that with the fact that people usually define their socioeconomic status in relative terms — i.e., how they compare to the Joneses — and you have an explanation for why hours increase with income. Or, as Conley puts it, at higher income levels, “the opportunity cost of not working is all the greater ( … since the higher we go, the more relatively deprived we feel).” Continue reading “Lawyers and the Economic Red Shift”
Blogging among legal academics was for a long time virtually unheard of, the province of a few (seemingly oddball) hobbyists. Then, with the remarkably successful efforts of Brian Leiter, Stephen Bainbridge, Prawfsblawg, Concurring Opinions, Moneylaw, and many others, legal-academic blogging became more mainstream. While the extent of blogging’s utility is still debated, and while blogging still remains a gratuitous undertaking rather than a formal faculty duty, blogging’s potential as a medium for serious legal discourse can no longer be doubted. Outside of law, blogging’s success has led some organizations to consider recognizing blogging’s value in an official way: by making it mandatory. Will law schools follow suit? Can and if so under what circumstances should law faculty be expected to blog as part of their formally defined duties? Continue reading “Teaching, Scholarship, Service … and Blogging? Decanal Encouragement of Law Faculty Blogging”