Category Archives: Temple Law School

Top Gun

I was delighted to learn last week that Caroline Power, who graduated in May, had won Baylor Law’s prestigious Top Gun Mock Trial Competition.  It was a wonderful conclusion to Caroline’s amazing run as a trial advocacy student, and an even better beginning to her life as a trial lawyer.  We at her alma mater are immensely proud of Caroline, excited for her future, and not at all surprised.

For those unfamiliar with Top Gun, it is an elite invitational competition in which advocates from the top programs in the country have just 24 hours to learn the case file and prepare their arguments, after which they argue their cases solo, rather than in the traditional team format.  The pressure is intense and the stakes are high.  Only one person a year earns the right to call herself a Top Gun.

This year’s contestants argued a case regarding copyright law in which a publisher was accused of encouraging a novice writer to take elements from an established writer’s series of children’s books. To win, Caroline had to review depositions, records, and photographs before the case, work with new pieces of evidence as the tournament progressed, and argue in front of a jury of distinguished trial lawyers and judges. In the final round of competition, Caroline argued before presiding Judge Leonard E. Davis, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Judge Davis had high praise for Caroline, describing her as talented, fluid, articulate, and persuasive.  I couldn’t agree more, and in fact would add that Caroline is also incredibly hard-working, focused, and highly disciplined – all traits that contributed to her success as a member of the Temple Law National Trial Team and will most certainly serve her well as a trial lawyer.

Caroline’s Top Gun triumph, coming as it does at this particular moment, has been a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the legacy of Eddie Ohlbaum, who created the program and whose passing this spring has been a loss for the school and for each of us who treasured his wisdom and friendship.  In particular, it has given me a reason to reflect on why trial advocacy is such a core element of our curriculum and to reaffirm our institutional commitment to it.

Becoming a trial lawyer isn’t for everyone.  That said, I believe that coursework in trial advocacy is.  Why? Three reasons:  Preparation, confidence, and agility.  No other course in legal education develops these three highly desirable – and transferable – traits in young lawyers as well as the classes they take in trial advocacy.

Preparation:  Trial Advocacy teaches students to synthesize a large amount of complex information, organize it into arguments that will be persuasive to their specific audience, and articulate it with passion and authenticity.  That audience may be a judge or jury, but could just as easily be an arbitration panel, corporate board, negotiating partner, or policy-maker.  Some people are gifted orators and can be decently effective extemporaneously.  But they will never be as great as if they’d prepared. The more prepared the lawyer is, the more effective she will be in representing her client well, no matter what the forum may be.  Trial Ad teaches preparation.

Confidence:  Trial Advocacy pushes students out of their comfort zone and challenges them to do things they didn’t know they could.  It is one of the great opportunities they have in the course of their legal education to layer skill and individuality on top of knowledge.  The best advocate understands that he or she – uniquely – determines the shape and contours of the case presented.  This artistry inevitably discloses something of the lawyer, and involves risk.  So, at Temple, our students will take risks to complete the course.  Learning that they can stand up in front of their peers and professors and deliver an opening statement or cross examine a witness is instrumental to their development as young lawyers, and the confidence they develop when they do what they thought was out of reach inevitably carries over into the rest of their work.

Agility:  Trial Advocacy requires students to think on the fly, drawing on their thorough understanding of the facts and how they relate to one another to quickly absorb new developments and make the necessary adjustments.  This ability to respond quickly and confidently under pressure is something that Temple’s trial advocacy faculty works to develop in every student, regardless of whether they are members of the National Trial Team or reluctantly enrolled in Introduction to Trial Advocacy despite a distinct aversion to public speaking.

What these three Trial Advocacy gifts really boil down to is this:  students who take the risks and the opportunities offered by the program, especially here at Temple, come out of it having discovered their own voices and with the tools to use those voices powerfully and passionately in the practice setting of their choice.  They have a “can do” confidence that they can make a difference, and so they do.  I’m proud of Temple Law’s leadership in this field and of the many members of the legal community whose participation contributes to our success.

The Heart of the Matter

Almost everyone who’s ever even thought about law school has heard that attending one will teach you, primarily, to “think like a lawyer.”  While that is universally recognized as an important element of any legal education, three events over the past week have led me to conclude that we cannot only be about teaching our students’ minds: we must also be engaging their hearts.  Fortunately, recent events have reminded me that this is something the faculty and alumni of Temple Law do exceptionally well.

On Friday, April 4th, Temple Law hosted Wills for Heroes, an organization that assists first responders and members of the military in drafting basic estate planning documents.  Dan McKenna ’05 and volunteers from Ballard Spahr joined Temple Law faculty, administrators and students to provide this much-needed service.  The feel-good vibes were palpable, and you could see in the faces of the clients the peace that comes from knowing that you are doing something tangible and concrete to protect the ones you love.

From left:  Professor Jane Baron, Shanna Miles, Amanda Cappelletti, Caroline Hubbard and Shelley Reinhart. In back are Kevin Hill and Nick Engel. Photo credit: Rich Baron.

From left: Professor Jane Baron, Shanna Miles, Amanda Cappelletti, Caroline Hubbard and Shelley Reinhart. In back are Kevin Hill and Nick Engel. Photo credit: Rich Baron.

On Saturday, Professor Jane Baron, who had also volunteered at the event on Friday, met students from her Property class at the East Poplar Playground and Recreation Center where, as part of the 7th annual Philly Spring Cleanup, they worked to spruce up a community garden.  Professor Baron has been a real driving force for the law school, reminding us that giving back to our community is not an obligation; it’s not even something we occasionally do.  It is who we are.

In between these two wonderful events was yet a third expression of the Temple Law Heart – -the tribute to Professor Eddie Ohlbaum, (“Eddie” to everyone), who passed away on March 13 after a valiant but too brief battle against cancer.  Judge Mitchell Goldberg (EDPA) gave comments from the judiciary, and as a member (with Andy Stern) of the inaugural trial team.  Luke Reiter, currently Executive Producer of “The Blacklist” but with legions of Hollywood credits to his name, spoke on behalf of the trial team (he was a member of Temple’s winning National Trial Competition team (NTC) where he received ‘best advocate honors).  Emilia McKee, a current 3L and member of the all-women NTC team just back from Texas where we once again made the Elite Eight, spoke about Eddie’s impact on trial team members, sharing with us an email Eddie had written to the team after a heart-breaking second-place finish earlier in the year.  (Members of the only other all women team, were also in attendance.  See both teams in the photo to the right).  In his message to this year’s team members, Eddie reminded them of all they had accomplished and how proud he was of them.  He told them, and forgive me for paraphrasing, that he would go into battle with them any day.  That unqualified support is what we all received from Eddie in various forms and settings.  And it is what we so very much miss.  After Emilia came David Layne, also a 3L, who talked about Eddie’s impact on students not on the trial team.  In reprising an encounter he’d had with Eddie about his success on Eddie’s Evidence exam, David reminded us that Eddie cared about every one of his students, not as competitors or numbers, but as people.

From left: Michelle Ashcroft, Emilia McKee Vassallo, Caroline Power, Brittne Walden, Anne Hendricks, Elaine Ugolnik,  Nancy Conrad

From left: Michelle Ashcroft, Emilia McKee Vassallo, Caroline Power, Brittne Walden, Anne Hendricks, Elaine Ugolnik, Nancy Conrad

David was followed by a trio of faculty members.  Professor Lou Natali reminisced about hiring Eddie at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and Eddie’s relentless commitment to out-work everyone else.  Professor Eleanor Myers reflected on Eddie’s service in the Temple Office of University Counsel, where he excelled at civil litigation, but just hated it.  Fortunately, Temple Law School came calling, and Eddie joined the Law School faculty in 1984.  Former University Counsel and former Dean Bob Reinstein shared memories of Eddie’s role on the Law School faculty, particularly as architect of the nationally-recognized advocacy program, an impact that single-handedly changed Temple Law School.

Having labelled both her presence and her participation as a game-day decision, Eddie’s widow, Karyn Scher, graced us with remarks.  She was at once nostalgic yet funny.  She shared a hilarious dream she’d had featuring Eddie and St. Peter.  I won’t reveal the punchline in case she chooses to tell it again — as she should.

The tribute ended with a short but poignant video, ending with Eddie’s hands over his head in victory.  (Thank you, Steve App, for finding the video).  It reminded us of his essence, his encouragement, and his love of success.   The planning committee concluded, afterwards, that the evening was as near perfect as one could hope.

Why do I go on like this?  In part, I want to honor my friend and colleague, Eddie Ohlbaum. But as I surveyed the several hundred people who had gathered to honor his contributions (the event was planned as a tribute, long before we had reason to suspect he would not be present to witness it), I realized that Eddie, and our reaction to his achievements and his loss, are what people love about Temple.  As an institution, Temple has a big heart  one with space and love for all of our community.

The Intersection of Law & Public Policy: 2014 Update

Last Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure of spending some time at a symposium featuring the work of 15 Temple Law & Public Policy Scholars.  For those of you unfamiliar with this program, the Scholars are Temple Law students who have completed an immersive summer experience in Washington D.C., led by Professor Nancy Knauer.  Professor Knauer conducts the course as an integrated learning community. The students work during the day at high level, policy-oriented internships, spend evenings in a class on institutional change, and enjoy mentorship from Temple Law graduates working in D.C.  Through the integration of these experiences, students achieve a deeper understanding of the reciprocal relationship among theory, experience, and professionalism.  Of particular excitement, the Scholars work collaboratively (a 21st century innovation in legal education), supporting and encouraging each other’s work, while individually preparing white papers related to their internship position.  After just two years in operation, the Law & Public Policy Program is already delivering impressive results.

Each Scholar at the symposium presented an innovative policy proposal addressing a current pressing social or economic issue – often of national or even international significance.  They were organized in five panels along the following themes:

  • Financial Regulation and the Public Interest
  • New Approaches to Problem Solving: Courts, Conflict, and the Environment
  • Sexuality, Violence, and the State
  • The Power of Markets
  • Responding to the Information Revolution

I watched with pride as the students presented their ideas with confidence and authority, and then fielded questions from a very engaged audience.  I was also impressed with the sophistication of the proposals themselves, which were far from being merely academic arguments.  These were proposals designed to have impact in the relevant policy arenas.

We like to say at Temple Law that our students excel in making things happen, and these Scholars are no exception.  Several of them have already been involved or influential in policy changes at very high levels. Some have already been sought out as experts on their points of interest.  All 15 will be presenting their papers in May at the annual meeting of the Law & Society Association, a forum typically reserved for faculty.  I have no doubt that their contributions to that forum, and to our profession, will make everyone at Temple Law very proud.  And they are just the latest example of our efforts to ensure that our students are prepared – well-prepared – for 21st century practice.

Congratulations to the Temple Law Trial Team

Emilia McKee, Caroline Power, Britt Walden, and Michelle Ashcroft

The Temple Law National Trial Team

I was delighted to learn this weekend that Temple Law’s National Trial Team swept the Region III championship and will advance to the National round, held in Austin from March 26-30.  Click here for the details about their victory and what comes next.

I was particularly excited to note that Temple Law was represented by four outstanding women – Emilia McKee Vassallo, Caroline Power, Britt Walden, and Michelle Ashcroft.  Each one is a powerhouse in her own right and I’m told that together they are simply astonishing.  It goes without saying that I am immensely proud of what they’ve accomplished so far and confident that there’s a lot more to come.

I’m also very encouraged, because I think this means that we are doing something right.  I hope it means that we are nurturing the passion, talent, and pride of the women who study law here, because our profession very much needs it – and them.  I hope it means that we are witnessing the evolution of our profession into one in which success begins with passion, not privilege.  And I hope it means that we are going to welcome many, many more women – and their passion, talent, and pride – to the fold.

So – to Emilia, Caroline, Britt, and Michelle – congratulations and thank you.  Your success reminds all of us – even those not fortunate enough to compete for a national title — what we can accomplish with passion, perseverance, preparation and plain old hard work.  No matter the setting, your work is an example to us all.

Temple Law as Family

APALSA's Lunar New Year Banquet always brings our community together.

APALSA’s Lunar New Year Banquet always brings our community together.

At Friday’s Lunar New Year banquet, APALSA president Andrew Moon described the 7th annual Temple APALSA Lunar New Year Banquet as a family reunion.  I could not agree more.  The sold-out event brought together students, faculty (David Sonenshein, Tom Lin and adjunct professor John Myers), administrators (Louie Thompson and Farlistcity El), alumni and friends to celebrate a most important Chinese holiday:  the Lunar New Year, this year welcoming the Year of the Horse.  Vice-President Richard Barzaga reminded us of the ties that bring us together.  We were treated to excellent food at Ocean City Restaurant (234 N. 9th Street), and the entertainment was, as always, captivating.  Lots of fun photos followed dinner, memorializing the enjoyment and camaraderie of the evening.  Most importantly, there was a wonderful sense among the participants that Temple Law fosters something more than education.   People who come together here – whether they stay for a few years or a career’s worth – discover the support and encouragement of friendships as enduring as the bonds of family.  Speaking of Temple Law as family, earlier on Friday members of the faculty came together, as part of our institutional book club, to discuss What the Best Law Teachers Do (Harvard University Press 2013).  The book examines the teaching strategies of 26 exceptional law professors, one of whom is our own Professor Nancy Knauer.  Professor Knauer shared how she’d become involved in the project and how it had impacted – and improved – her already outstanding teaching.  Those of us in attendance talked about Professor Knauer’s successful tactics, and discussed ideas for encouraging our faculty to become even more intentional about teaching outcomes than they already are.  We all felt inspired to renew our focus on delivering the very best of our abilities to our students.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, law schools across the nation are under considerable pressure to shape our students into the lawyers – and leaders – of tomorrow.  But I think we should also take great care to help them connect to one another and to us as people, because it is our connection to each other that sustains and guides us in joyful times and in difficult times.  The sense of family that we’ve nurtured at Temple Law is intended to do just that, and I’m proud and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.

On Cyberwarfare and Legal Education

Yesterday, the law school hosted a presentation on the international legal implications of cyber warfare by Gary Brown, Deputy Legal Advisor for the International Committee for the Red Cross and formerly the first senior legal counsel for U.S. Cyber Command.  Mr. Brown discussed whether the law of armed conflict, which was developed to address traditional forms of warfare, is well-suited to cyber conflict – and, if not, what law should apply.  The program was sponsored by the law school’s Institute for International Law and Public Policy, and was organized by Professor Duncan Hollis, one of the country’s leading scholars of cyber warfare.

The event underscores that today’s law students will soon enter a practice world marked by rapidly changing and highly disruptive technologies.   Not terribly long ago, no one had heard of cyberspace, much less thought about its legal implications.  Today, it is difficult to imagine life without the internet.  The web connects billions of individuals, machines and essential infrastructure in ways that have transformed our world – and made cybersecurity a critical policy and legal issue.

Thinking about cyberwar reminds us that today’s lawyers must be able to assist their clients in navigating through the complex regulatory and commercial issues raised by new technologies.  Temple is fortunate to have talented faculty who are national leaders in cutting edge issues involving technology and cyberlaw.  Before joining the Temple faculty, David Post clerked for then-Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, worked on intellectual property issues and high technology commercial transactions for a leading Washington, D.C. law firm, and taught at Georgetown University.   He is a Fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology, and an Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute.  He is co-author of the leading textbook on cyberlaw, and his most recent book, In Search of Jefferson’s Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace (Oxford University Press) explores what cyberspace is, how it works, and how it should be governed.

Duncan Hollis approaches cyber issues from the perspective of international law.  Duncan is an award-winning author whose work on treaties has been cited by the United States Supreme Court.  He is now part of an interdisciplinary team headed by research scientists from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Department that was awarded a multi-year grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study existing norms of behavior and governance in cyberspace.  Before joining the Temple faculty, Duncan worked as an international lawyer at the U.S. Department of State.

Professors Post and Hollis embody the types of cross-cutting expertise that is increasingly necessary in today’s rapidly changing practice environment.   One of my key responsibilities – and joys – as Dean is to ensure that discussion of cutting-edge issues is part of our students’ everyday experience.

Innovation at Temple Law

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a variety of issues impacting the future of legal education, mostly in preparation for a gathering of law school deans next month that will address the many questions confronting us at this time.  I want to be very clear – I’m excited about this conversation, and about this time in American legal education.  The challenges to our profession over the past few years have given rise to a new spirit of innovation and insight into how we both teach and practice law, and it is wonderful to experience. I’m proud of my colleagues here at Temple and at our peer institutions for the resilience and the passion they have brought to this sometimes daunting task.

I realized during the course of my preparations that many of our friends and alumni may not be aware of what we’re doing at Temple Law to prepare students for practice in our evolving profession. Our students have to be prepared to practice in ways that would never have been possible for earlier generations. That’s why we have committed ourselves to pushing legal education in new directions, preparing students for success wherever and however they choose to practice.

Our #2 US News & World Report rank in trial advocacy isn’t just because we win a lot of competitions; it’s because our integrated transactional and trial advocacy programs are so successful at producing practice-ready graduates.  That’s why we’ve built on these award-winning programs to create a new model for hands on legal education that starts earlier and goes farther than other experiential curricula. Our Introduction to Transactional Skills (ITS) mini-course gets first-year students out of the classroom and into a business deal within weeks of the first day of law school, while Litigation Basics gets them on their feet litigating a mock case, from questioning witnesses in a deposition to cross-examining them at trial.  I’m proud to report that these new first-year courses were recently recognized as among the most innovative law school initiatives in the country by National Jurist Magazine.

Many students have reported that doing what lawyers do so early in their law school career has given them a sense of professional identity and confidence in themselves, and it shows.  We think this is so important that we’ve also created the Temple Summer Professional Experience Curriculum (T-SPEC), which blends internships in a variety of local settings with a classroom component focused on professionalism and ethics as they arise in the course of the students’ summer work.

Summer also finds several Temple Law students traveling to D.C. for our pioneering Law & Public Policy program, where they work in policy-oriented internships, are mentored by Temple Law alumni, and engage in a collaborative learning experience about how change happens.  The program is directed by Professor Nancy J. Knauer, who is featured in What the Best Law Teachers Do by Michael Hunter Schwartz.  The Law & Public Policy program is more than just a summer program, however; students also have the option of spending a semester living and working in Washington D.C., and will soon have an opportunity to examine policy-making in urban environments through a Philadelphia-based course offering as well.

Upper level students have a range of innovative opportunities available to them during the school year, depending on their particular interests and professional plans.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Our Low Income Taxpayer Policy and Practice course combines classroom policy discussions with service in the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, giving students the chance to experience first-hand the impact of national tax policy as they help low income taxpayers prepare their annual returns;
  • Our American Red Cross Disaster Relief Clinic, in which students learn about disaster recovery, conduct intake interviews at Red Cross House, prepare estate planning documents for disaster survivors, and create educational brochures for the Red Cross on legal questions common to disaster relief efforts.  Like ITS, the Red Cross clinic emphasizes collaboration, teamwork, and problem-solving, all of which are modeled by the several faculty members who work together to teach the course;
  • Our clinic in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Charging Unit, in which students, under supervision, make charging decisions in misdemeanor site arrests and approve or decline arrest warrants in misdemeanor cases; review and determine approval of search warrants; and conduct arraignment court and advocate on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for appropriate bail.  In doing so, students apply law to real cases and grapple with the ethical and professional issues prosecutors face in practice.  Like the Red Cross clinic, this clinic is designed to give evening students access to for-credit experiential opportunities;
  • Our Transactional Skills Workshop, which teaches the theory behind the need for transactional lawyers and puts students in a simulated deal where they must negotiate and draft complex documents;
  • Our Legal Issues in Business Strategic Planning course, a collaborative effort with Temple’s Fox School of Business in which Temple Law students and Temple MBA students work together to advise real start-up companies through Fox’s Enterprise Management Consulting program;
  • Our Global Scholars program, which prepares students to think of their future practice in a global context through internship opportunities in Rome and in Tokyo, and gives them direct experience engaging with lawyers and members of foreign legal institutions through a series of lectures, simulated exercises, and networking events; and
  • For those students with very specific interests, the Temple Law Practicum, a unique experiential learning opportunity that engages a student, a full-time faculty member and often a practicing attorney in solving a real problem for a real client.

As the legal profession continues to evolve, lawyers are finding new opportunities every day for solving the problems facing our families, our businesses, and our communities. At Temple Law, we see the potential in our students for doing a world of good in ways never before possible for lawyers, and we’re committed to giving them the tools to get it done.

It’s About Community

 

Temple Law Moment of Thanks Toy Drive

Temple Law and CORA community members with toys for at-risk children in Northeast Philadelphia

 

Temple Law Moment of Thanks Food Drive

Temple Law students with items for donation to Philabundance

Last fall, the Temple Law community came together at Thanksgiving and again at Christmas to make our second annual Moment of Thanks campaign an overwhelming success.  Together, we donated more than 750 canned food items to Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger relief organization, and more than 600 toys to at-risk children in Northeast Philadelphia through CORA services.

I’d like to express my personal gratitude to all who participated in these efforts.  The end of the fall semester is an incredibly stressful time for law students and faculty alike, but you took the time anyway to make sure that Temple Law could give back to the community around us.  We have often said that our people are our best asset, and you have once again shown that to be true.

Thank you, and Happy New Year!

 

Impactful

Anne Curzan, a linguist at the University of Michigan, has written a wonderful blog post about one of my favorite non-words: impactful.  If you are at all interested in the evolution of our language, I encourage you to read it for its thoughtfulness and insight.

Why do I like “impactful?” In a nutshell, I think it captures an essential element of what we strive for at Temple Law School.  We’ve challenged our students to be people who solve problems, right wrongs, and get things done.  We want them to be innovators whose creativity changes outcomes. We want them to be entrepreneurs willing to step into the gap when they see a need and meet it with confidence and skill. We want them to do work that engages, inspires, and changes them.  We want them to be impactful.

From what I can see, our students feel the same way.  They don’t wait for graduation or practice to make their mark – they jump in when they see a need and meet it with creativity, persistence, and confidence.  Whether it’s partnering with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to create a youth court in one of the city’s most impoverished high schools, proposing immigration and labor law reforms that garner national attention, or building medical-legal partnerships that place lawyers onsite in medical settings where they can directly intervene when adverse conditions contribute to poor health outcomes, Temple students are impactful, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

I will add a caveat here that as a stickler on matters of grammar and language, I will not be using “impactful” in my own writing anytime soon.  I think that reasonable minds can disagree about whether it has yet earned a place in the lexicon.  But I also think that the concept it conveys is both powerful and necessary, and that an ethic of “impactfulness” could bring much needed energy to our profession.  We will continue to seek and support that energy within our Temple Law School community , and to teach our students to seek and support it in their own lives and practices. With any luck, by the time the language catches up with them, they will have become the very definition of “impactful.”