In previous posts, I wrote about the intensive access to justice efforts at the University of Cincinnati School of Law and Roger Williams School of Law and Georgia State University’s Center for Access to Justice.  This week’s posts also addresses access to justice initiatives, but this time framed by a law review article that describes an effort that is distinctive in five meaningful ways.

First, the article was co-authored by five law professors (in the order they are listed on SSRN), Professor Lisa Pruitt of UC Davis School of Law, Professor Amanda Kool of Harvard Law School, Professor Lauren Sudeall Lucas, who directs the Georgia State Access to Justice Center, Dean Danielle Conway of the University of Maine School of Law, and Professor Hannah Haksgaard of the University of South Dakota School of Law, and a Medical School Professor, Michele Statz of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, School of Medicine.

Second, the article describes law school-based rural access to justice initiatives in three states, California, Maine, and South Dakota. In California, the One Justice’s Justice Bus takes students, as well as attorneys, into rural communities to provide one-time legal services. In Georgia, Georgia State’s Alternative Spring Break Pro Bono Initiative is planning a 2019 rural-focused access to justice clinic.  In Maine, the University of Maine School of Law (Maine Law) partnered with the Maine State Bar Association, the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, and the Maine Justice Foundation to plan and launch the Maine Law Rural Lawyer Project. With seed funding from the Maine Justice Foundation and in-kind contributions from the remaining three partners, Maine Law launched The Rural Lawyer Project, which places law students with practitioners in communities that would otherwise have limited access to legal services. Maine Law students work in the summers under the guidance of practitioners and are exposed to all facets of rural practice, including, but not limited to, legal research and drafting, dispute resolution, general practice case management, real estate transactions, trial practice, and ethics.  In South Dakota, the Project Rural Practice launched a program in the summer of 2017 to place first- and second-year law students in summer jobs at rural law firms. Using a $25,000 grant to partially fund summer internships in rural counties, the career office at USD Law works to connect law students and small-town practitioners with the goal of exposing students to rural practice and connecting them with the rural legal community.

These initiatives are similar to two projects at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law.  The first, which the law school calls its Delta Clinic, is a more or less traditional legal clinic in every way except its location—in the area of Arkansas, the Delta, with the most severe access to justice deficit in the state (given the area’s 4,000:1 population to lawyer ratio). The Delta Clinic students prepare divorce complaints and motions for fee waivers for low-income client, obtain service on defendants, represent the clients in divorce hearings, and write final divorce decrees. The second, the law school’s new Rural Practice Incubator, is designed to support Bowen alumni in launching viable small or solo practices in rural, under served Arkansas communities. The 18-month program supports incubator attorneys with training, resources, mentoring, and guidance to assist them in building their professional careers as rural attorneys. Incubator attorneys are encouraged to implement innovative legal service delivery models to increase access to justice for low- and moderate-income rural Arkansans. Each participant will provide a minimum of 100 hours of pro bono or low bono legal services during the program.

Third, the article provides hard data on the severe access to justice issues faced by American rural communities. The article points out that rural communities feel budget cuts to legal aid much more severely than their urban peers, that racial and ethnic minorities are over-represented among those in rural communities who lack meaningful access to justice, and that the access to justice problem is much more than a deficiency in legal aid lawyers given the severe shortage of rural lawyers of any stripe, and that the rural lawyer population is shrinking.

Finally, the authors suggest four new approaches to rural access to justice: (1) continuing to gather and analyze data regarding the rural lawyer shortage and efforts to address the shortage; (2) continuing to develop local, patchwork solutions that include but are not limited to technological solutions; (3) establishing state and federal financial incentives to encourage law school graduates to enter rural practice and developing collaborations with retiring rural practitioners; and (4) continuing and expanding law school efforts to recruit, train, place, and support law school graduates interested in rural practice.

Given the rural lawyer shortages about which the authors write, such efforts seem necessary if we are ever to realize meaningful access to justice.

Recently, Jessica Berg and Michael Scharf, Co-Deans at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, contacted me to highlight the uniqueness of their first-year students’ required participation in a pro bono legal experience. Students assist in the provision of free legal services by, for example, conducting client intake interviews for the law school’s Legal Aid Brief Advice Clinic.  Jessica and Michael’s communication made me wonder if Case Western is alone in implementing a mandatory first-year pro bono requirement and how many schools require any pro bono work as a graduation requirement.

I hope this data will be helpful to any law school considering the possibility of implementing a pro bono requirement.

The ABA’s Directory of Law School Public Interest and Pro Bono Programs lists only five law schools with a first-year pro bono requirement. In addition to the pro bono requirement by Case Western,  The University of District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law requires 60 hours, Appalachian School of Law requires 25 hours, and the University of Arkansas, Little Rock Bowen School of Law requires 5 hours of pro bono service for 1Ls. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ Boyd School of Law requires its 1Ls to enroll in a community service program as part of a zero-unit course.

Another 30 law schools require 20 to 60 hours of pro bono service some time during law school in order to earn a J.D., meaning that over 17 percent of ABA-approved schools mandate pro bono service. That figure does not include the many schools, some with highly structured programs dating back to the 1980s and 1990s, which encourage, but don’t mandate, pro bono hours.  Some of those law schools report extraordinary student participation rates—as high as 90%+.

A note about my methodology: I did my best to search law school websites if the ABA Directory listing was missing or unclear, but I will be happy to make a correction if I missed a law school. Finally, I did not count schools with clinic or externship requirements, a topic which will be the subject of an upcoming blog post.

If we were to add all our students’ pro bono service and all the public service work our students do in our clinics and in their externships, the law school community is devoting an extraordinary amount of time and resources to making the world a better place and teaching students the life lesson of the importance of giving back.

Not too long ago, an engineering dean I know expressed admiration for the pro bono work done by law students and lawyers and asked me to explain why we are so successful in getting our alumni and students to contribute free legal services. I guess it is all a matter of perspective. At the very least, my research for this post (and for my upcoming post on clinic or externship requirements) will give me comfort the next time someone tells me a lawyer joke.

Nearly all law schools include a commitment to access to justice as part of their mission statements or among their stated values.  UC Berkeley Law School has gone one step further in the area of consumer law. The law school has launched a new Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice.  Funded by a spring 2018, $3.5 million gift from a Berkeley Law alumna, the center seeks to “ensure safe, equal, and fair access to the marketplace . . . [and to] create a society where economic security and opportunity are available to all.”

The Center already has jumped into action. On April 16, the first day of the Center’s official existence, the Center filed an amicus brief in Manriquez v. DeVos, a case seeking to compel the U.S. Department of Education to honor its promise to forgive the debt of tens of thousands of students defrauded by Corinthian Colleges.

In late June, the Center convened two groups of practitioners whose work focuses on protecting the rights of low-income consumers, including government enforcement attorneys, consumer advocates, and direct legal service providers. The partnerships will help keep enforcement agencies informed about the most pressing forms of fraud and abuse facing consumers and will provide a forum to share ideas and materials.

Finally, the Center has created four new consumer law courses, Consumer Litigation: The Course of a Case, The Law of Student Loans, “Carsumer” Protection Law, and Consumer Bankruptcy Law.  For more information about these very interesting courses, see the Center’s first 90-Day Report.

I depart today from my normal column subject, educational innovations, to share some personal thoughts about Justice Kennedy.  Although it was not advertised during my recruitment for the McGeorge deanship, one of the greatest and most undeserved perks of being the dean at McGeorge is the opportunity to work with and get to know Justice Kennedy. I write to share a bit of the more personal side of the man.

I will leave it to others to address Justice Kennedy’s legacy as a Supreme Court justice. I am not a Constitutional law scholar, and I have no desire to confirm my lack of expertise by trying to pretend to be one. My favorite professional tributes so far are this legal analysis by his former law clerk, Cornell Law Professor Michael Dorf, and this tribute that gracefully links Justice Kennedy’s 40+ years as a law teacher and his storied career as a jurist authored by UCLA Law Professor Richard M. Re. I also enjoyed this more personal tribute by Notre Dame Law Professor Jeffrey Pojanowski and this tribute by Dr. Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, who, since 1993, has been Justice Kennedy’s co-teacher in McGeorge’s study abroad program at the University of Salzburg. (Dr. Douglas-Scott herself is a rock star law professor in England. Check out Dr. Douglas-Scott’s bio.) Justice Kennedy also has been celebrated for his civility and willingness to work hard.

Everyone else having done the hard intellectual work, I get to just tell four Justice Kennedy stories that, together, capture what a special man Justice Kennedy is.

Story 1. Last summer, I had the opportunity to catch a class session taught by Justice Kennedy as part of McGeorge’s Study Abroad Program at the University of Salzburg.  As is always the case with Justice Kennedy when he speaks, he taught entirely without looking at his notes.  (I have noticed that, when he speaks, he often has a set of handwritten notes which he relegates to his coat pocket before he starts speaking.) He was a wonderful classroom teacher (and, as many of you know, I am passionate about excellence in law teaching).  A particular moment stands out. He called on a student, and as many of us do when we teach, he asked her, “What would you argue if you were the lawyer in this case?”  The student articulated her argument. Justice Kennedy replied, “That was not the argument I was looking for.”  The class held its collective breath, as the student no doubt searched her mind for another answer. Then, the Justice added enthusiastically, “It’s better!” His humility and sincere delight in student success were evident throughout the class session, and those qualities are two common characteristics of the 26 law professors my co-authors and I studied for What the Best Law Teachers Do.

Story 2. On multiple occasions, Justice Kennedy has told people that I am his “boss.” (I, of course, cannot imagine a more absurd title.) In addition, on two occasions, in meetings that included the president of my university, Justice Kennedy credited me with a summer internship idea that, at best for me, was 95% his idea and 5% mine. (In both instances, given his stature, I was not going to start arguing with him publicly.)

Story 3. As my wife and I were saying goodbye to Justice Kennedy and his wife, Mary, in Salzburg last summer, Justice Kennedy said, with his typical kindness, “Mike, I think you will be great for McGeorge, and Stacey, I think you will be great for Sacramento.”  He was right about my wife, and, while she has not lorded it over me, I suspect it meant that he liked her more. Regardless, his graciousness touched us both.

Story 4.  This spring, I heard two Justice Kennedy speeches, his remarks to the Sacramento County Bar Association (SCBA) on the occasion of the SCBA’s 100th Anniversary celebration and a video presentation at a dinner honoring the accomplishments of a retiring justice of the 3rd District of the California Courts of Appeal, Justice George Nicholson. What both sets of remarks had in common was his evident and enormous connection to the Sacramento community and bar, his genuine connection to people on a very personal level, his willingness to go out of his way for others, and his brilliance as a public speaker.  It was also telling that so many of us felt a personal connection to the man.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

So, what do I take from these four stories? Justice Kennedy is a humble man (Stories 1 and 2), great law teacher (Story 1), a supportive, kind, and generous person (Stories 2, 3, and 4), and a good friend (Stories 2, 3, and 4).

I have been asked what I see Justice Kennedy doing next. I have no doubt he will spend more time with his family. However, to me, Justice Kennedy is the legal education equivalent of LeBron James (an iconic figure, someone everyone would like to have on her or his team, a guy who makes those around him better, and a free agent this summer). I therefore will be recruiting him to continue to teach at McGeorge, ideally even more frequently than he has in the last few years.

University of Cincinnati College of Law, The Help Center                                         

Roger Williams University School of Law, The Pro Bono Collaborative

This week’s post focuses on two different law schools’ efforts to address the access to justice issues in their communities.  As an article in the ABA Journal written in September 2017, explained, “In the U.S, the majority of our citizens cannot get legal help, whether that is for criminal charges, civil matters, or their small-business issues.” Increasingly, law schools are stepping up, and I could justify featuring probably two dozen law schools this week. The two projects I have chosen to focus on are the Pro Bono Collaborative at Roger Williams University School of Law and The Help Center at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

The Pro Bono Collaborative is a partnership among the law school, local law firms, and community organizations, and it has been operating for more than five years. The students deliver legal assistance to local nonprofit organizations serving low-income people on a variety of legal issues, including expungements, special education claims, guardianships, housing, employment, and health. It has been cited as a model program by Stanford professor Deborah L. Rhode, the legal Services Corporation, and the National Center for Access to Justice.

The Help Center is of more recent vintage. The Ohio Supreme Court’s Task Force on Access to Justice originally suggested the idea of the Help Center. The product of a collaboration among the local bar association, the local legal aid society, Cincinnati-based law firms, the Clerk of the Courts, and Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law, The Help Center, launched last September, provides legal advice to individuals dealing with small claims matters, collections, landlord-tenant issues.

The Report of the National Center for Access to Justice notes about a dozen other law student pro bono initiatives worth emulating.

It is very easy to dismiss one impressive bar pass rate as a fluke.  Even two in a row might possibly be dismissed. However, Florida International School of Law, ranked fifth among the 11 ABA-approved law schools in Florida, has enjoyed a bar pass rate, over the past six bar exams, that is first, first, first, second, first, and first in the state. In other words, we cannot even see the fluke line from where we are standing; instead, it’s time we recognize that FIU has found the bar pass secret sauce.

What is that secret sauce? It could not be simply having an academic support and/or bar pass program. Many U.S. law schools have implemented academic support and bar pass programs aimed at ensuring their students graduate and pass the bar exam on the first try. These programs have enjoyed varying degrees of success, but no law school has experienced anything close to the long-term, sustained success FIU has enjoyed.

The architect of FIU’s Bar Pass success, Professor Louis Schulze, has authored a law review article that provides some insight. The crux of Professor Schulze’s approach involves empowering law students by teaching them modern brain science principles and study strategies, convincing the students to implement those principles, and supporting their efforts to do so.

The full article is worth a read. Below, to whet your appetite for the full article, I detail three principles that animate Professor Schulze’s approach.  For example, as Schulze explains, most students study incorrectly for their exams and for the bar exam. Instead of finishing one subject and moving onto the next, students could greatly improve their recall if they were to study and re-study (four times in all) their course material or bar subjects. The term of art is “spaced repetition.”

In fact, there is evidence that changing subjects and study methods every 45 minutes or so has a positive effect on recall (known as “interleaving learning”). (This insight is not from Professor Schulze’s article but is based on recent articles that I have concluded are credible enough to share with my students.)

Second, according to cognitive learning theory and studies confirming the validity of the theory, students store knowledge in organized structures in their brains. This insight explains why course outlining helps learning; however, this point also explains why flowcharting works as well as outlining, why course outlines that are simply lists of rules without hierarchy are not very useful, and why students really should be trained to avoid commercial or hand-me-down course outlines.

Third, students who self-regulate their learning, who take control over their learning process by planning how they will study each concept, who implement those plans while constantly monitoring their learning, and who frequently reflect on the success of their plans and adapt where necessary learn better.

In short, by teaching students to be expert students, FIU has helped its students successfully navigate the bar exam.

This week’s blog entry focuses on F.O.I., Fear of Innovation. While researching for another project, I came across the quotations listed below. Because they seemed so relevant to a blog focusing on innovation, I could not resist taking a one entry time out from my regular practice of writing about great law school innovations.

The quotes below reveal what I suspect we all have observed; educators have always been made a bit queasy by innovation. Given the breadth, depth, and ambition of the ideas I have had the opportunity to feature in this blog so far, it appears legal educators have chosen to feel the fear and move forward anyway.

I found all the quotes below in the book Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson. The book was published in 2009 by Teachers College Press.  Quotes 1 and 2 are on page 30; Quotes 3 through 7 are on page 31.  The authors provide further background on the quotes in a footnote.

  1. From a principal’s publication in 1815: “Students today depend on paper too much.  They don’t know how to write on a slate without getting chalk dust all over themselves.  They can’t clean a slate properly.  What will they do when they run out of paper?”
  2. From the Journal of the National Association of Teachers, 1907: “Students today depend too much upon ink.  They don’t know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pencil.  Pen and ink will never replace the pencil.”
  3. From Rural American Teacher, 1928: “Students today depend upon store bought ink.  They don’t know how to make their own.  When they run out of ink they will be unable to write words or ciphers until their next trip to the settlement.  This is a sad commentary on modern education.”
  4. From PTA Gazette, 1941: “Students today depend on these expensive fountain pens.  They can no longer write with a straight pen and nib. We parents must not allow them to wallow in such luxury to the detriment of learning how to cope in the real business world which is not so extravagant.”
  5. From Federal Teachers, 1950: “Ballpoint pens will be the ruin of education in our country.  Students use these devices and then throw them away.  The American values of thrift and frugality are being discarded. Businesses and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries.”
  6. From a fourth-grade teacher in Apple Classroom of Tomorrow Chronicles, 1987: “If students turn in papers they did on the computer, I require them to write them over in long hand because I don’t believe they do the computer work on their own.”
  7. From a science fair judge in Apple Classroom of Tomorrow Chronicles, 1988: “Computers give students an unfair advantage. Therefore, students who used computers to analyze data or create displays will be eliminated from the science fair.”

I hope these quotes have entertained you as much as they entertained me. I note that, in writing this blog post, I had the unfair advantage of using a computer.  Thankfully, no one is making me rewrite this post in long hand.

Today’s blog post is a venture into an area of legal education innovation about which I am much less an expert and much more a novice. Having at least hosted a legal hackathon during my time as dean at UA Little Rock, I feel just brave enough to write about this innovation.

I am writing about an exciting development at the intersection of law, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and access to justice, the Legal Technology Lab arose out of conferences held in 2014 and 2015 at UMKC School of Law, launched in 2016, and already has grown to more than a dozen projects. Here is a link to the LTL Project Portfolio, which includes, among other things, projects aimed at re-engineering legal and regulatory processes, the application of data analytics to legal decision-making, intelligent legal compliance, and Blockchain-enabled contracts.

(For those of you who, like me, you are relatively new to Blockchain and the related field of cryptocurrencies, I have committed the cardinal sin of linking to Wikipedia. It was the first thing I read on the subject to start my own education.)

I share three examples below to give you a flavor of the exciting work sponsored by the LTL.

  • Data Analytics and FCC Policy Making. “[T]his project examines around two million documents from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The project has identified key links between public inputs and agency action, thereby providing a policy-making influence map. . . . The project demonstrates the use of technical tools to make information located at the intersection of law, technology, and entrepreneurship useful and accessible. Citizens and lawyers can leverage these tools to more effectively manage one of the biggest challenge in start-up entrepreneurship:  regulation. . . . The FCC Media policy project shows how lawyers can marshal technology to level the playing field.”
  • Law Incubator-driven Data Analytics for Entrepreneurship Policy. “Through networks of university-based entrepreneurship law clinics in the US and Europe, and a US-wide network of legal incubators supporting entrepreneurial lawyers, the LTL Community has access to a collective set of data on entrepreneurs and start-ups and their barriers to innovation. . . . [The project] will focus on developing a system to produce, use and share high-quality evidence that can lead to better recommendations on law and policy changes, better decisions to improve how interventions are funded and delivered, and the dissemination of best practices that promote affordable access to quality legal services.”
  • Developing New Applications for Smart Contracts. “The use of computer code and a blockchain—the same technology that underlies Bitcoin—makes it possible for parties to express contractual promises in computer code and have those performance obligations automated . . . . The Smart Contracts Project is exploring a range of contracts capable of being rendered ‘smart.’ [T]he project is focusing on prototyping one or more . . . agreements with the aim of building examples of enforceable smart contracts that can interact with existing legal systems.”

For what it’s worth, I have bookmarked the LTL news feed.

This week, I write to share a program, the Mentor Externship Program at University of St. Thomas School of Law, that I have successfully emulated at two other law schools.  I am not the only admirer. St Thomas’ version of the program was awarded the American Bar Association’s E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award, and a similar program (modeled on St. Thomas’ program) is part of a comprehensive professionalism curriculum, created by my former colleagues at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law, also received a Gambrell Professionalism Award.

Every entering student at St. Thomas is matched with a mentor who is either a judge or practices in an area of law of interest to the student. The goals of this program include fostering professionalism, developing students’ interpersonal skills, and deepening students’ self-directed learning skills.

First-year students focus on developing good relationships with their mentors and logging 18 hours of fieldwork. Students receive guidance on professionalism, communication, time management, and making the most of mentor relationships through programs held throughout the year. The first year has no seminar component, and no academic credit is earned.

Second- and third-year students complete 30 hours of fieldwork per year while maintaining good relationships with their mentor. In addition, students take a required one credit seminar each year. The seminars are taught by full- and part-time faculty. These faculty mentors teach up to 16 students in small group classes and assist students in meeting their self-defined objectives throughout the year.

Fieldwork experiences are combined with reflective writing to promote students’ self-reflection skills. For more information, try this link; click on each of the sub-links.

Having served as the dean at two law schools that have implemented similar programs, I have now heard from dozens of students who regarded their mentoring experiences as among their best experiences as law students. Many have reported discovering new potential areas of practice or discovering that an area of law they thought was attractive was not. A good number have secured summer and even permanent jobs as a result of their mentoring experiences.

Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Shepard Broad College of Law has established a curriculum it calls the NSU Law Leadership Academy that is designed to develop its students’ technological, financial, and global economic competencies. Students may elect to take a specialized list of courses that include, among others, Business Operations for Lawyers, Strategic Planning for Lawyers, and Law Practice Business and Technology Workshop. I will highlight two of the courses that most intrigued me.

First, NSU Law describes its course in Business Operations in this way, “In every area of legal practice, one or more of the parties in a transaction or dispute are business enterprises operating using a common set of disciplines and tools to share information, evaluate risk, and make financially-based decisions. This course provides law students with an introduction to these primary tools of quantitative analysis and research relied upon daily in the for-profit business, nonprofit, and public sectors. Lawyers who understand these tools can better understand the needs of their clients, provide additional strategies for structuring transactions and resolving disputes, and adding discipline to the operations of lawyers’ own law firms. Through simulations, exercises and discussions, students will explore how best to apply these tools to the practice of law.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the field often referred to as “Legal Operations,” take a look at a graphic created by Professor Bill Henderson of  the University of Indiana Mauer School of Law that depicts the Legal Operations Core Competencies. Professor Henderson’s compelling Legal Evolution Blog includes a section devoted to Legal Ops.

A second NSU class, Law Practice Business and Technology Workshop is intended to supplement NSU Law’s Law Office Management Course. As NSU explains, “This course provides hands-on experience for students on a number of key operational aspects of the practice of law, including the business foundation of successful law firm management; security and confidentiality of client information; marketing, public relations, advertising and social media; duties of technological competence under ABA ‘Ethics 20/20’ amendments to the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility; predictive coding and other eDiscovery issues; client intake and case management; and issues related to the scope and composition of representation, including the unauthorized practice of law and unbundled legal services.”

Together, the courses that compose NSU Law’s new leadership curriculum are an important step in nudging legal education towards its inevitable and dramatically different future. New attorneys will need to be adept in the use of constantly evolving business and technology tools and practices thus better preparing them to adapt to their clients’ changing needs.