Monthly Archives: February 2014

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Thoughts from the ABA Deans’ Meeting

At the end of last week, I attended the ABA Deans’ meeting. 127 of the 202 ABA accredited law schools were represented. The conference was entitled “Our Future: Changes and Challenges,” and that is what the programming and the conversations focused on. In other words, although there was a clear recognition of the changed circumstances in which law schools of today find ourselves, there was a commitment to talking constructively and positively about ensuring that we remain committed to our students’ future success. This was a day and a half conference, so all of the contents can’t possibly be conveyed here.  Here, though, are some of the conference highlights.

The first panel focused on forms and delivery of legal education and the delivery of legal services. In this context, we discussed varying opportunities for students, both before and after graduation, to be placed in settings that would allow them to contribute to the delivery of much-needed legal services while gaining needed experience. The panel also focused on the cost of legal education, and touched on initiatives such as 3+3 programs and expanded joint degree programs to shorten the time to degree and thus reduce student costs. There was almost no mention of shortening law school to two years. Rather, the discussion focused on ensuring that the third year was meaningful, important, and of clear added value.

The second panel, on regulation and accreditation, clearly generated the most excited discussion. Discussion centered around who should license lawyers, what kind of activity should be licensed, who accredits what sorts of programs, and the role of law schools and law school Deans in these discussions. There were representatives from the state licensing agencies of both New York and California, both of which are expanding the requirements to be admitted as a practicing lawyer. New York has a pro bono requirement, and California is contemplating an enhanced skills requirement. I think it is fair to say that collectively Deans responded to these initiatives with disapproval. Historically, a graduate of an ABA-accredited law school was eligible to sit for a state bar exam. Although I cannot speak for everyone, I think it is fair to say that the view of the Deans was that if states begin to impose extra requirements, the burden will inevitably be felt by law schools, who will need both to ensure that our students have the requisite opportunities, and who will be asked to certify compliance by our students. At least one state’s bar officials have been heard to say, “We are not going to be outdone by California and New York.” A race to 50 unique bar admission requirements would be a disaster for law schools to administer.  Additional administrative requirements impose increased administrative costs; this is especially unwelcome in an era where everyone is seeking to keep the cost of legal affordable.

The afternoon panel focused on the changing face of legal education. In particular, discussion focused on the many new programs that are being introduced, including education for undergraduates, new masters programs, and new programs for nonlawyers. This session also focused on distance-learning, hybrid learning, and whether the JD should be modified to require more skills-based content. We also discussed LLLTs: limited license legal technicians, and the likely or most desirable place for them in the future legal landscape.

Saturday’s morning session focused on the varying legal education organizations, and their role in the future of legal education. These include the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), and, of course the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. I think the highlight of the discussion was the commitment of all of these organizations to work far more collaboratively then has been done in the past, particularly with an eye towards addressing costs of education as well as ensuring that the pipeline promotes a diverse student – and ultimately lawyer – population.

The final session ended where we began – thinking about our future and what we as Deans might do together. There was a clear sense that we have not been as united in reminding people about the value of a legal education as we might be. That will change. There was a sense that we have operated in the past as silo institutions, and that there are exciting opportunities for collaborations between and among schools. Many of you know that I am particularly proud of my decision to open up our Innocence Project to students from other Philadelphia area law schools. The words “joint,” “shared,” “collaborative,” “consultative,” and even “consortium” were talked about enthusiastically. And although almost everyone was experiencing yet another decline in law school applications this year, we left with a decided sense of camaraderie and optimism.

To close, let me put this in Temple perspective. Don’t get me wrong; I took away several new ideas. On the whole, however, I was very pleased to recognize that we are already doing a lot of the things that people felt are important to our shared future. We have comparatively low tuition; we have a host of experiential programs, both for our students and our recent graduates; we have crosstown collaborations with our area law schools, we have dual degree programs, and we are exploring forms of online teaching. I could go on, but my point is not to list everything we do but simply to conclude with the recognition that this is not the law school of the 20th century, or even of the early years of the 21st century. We have continued to evolve and offer new and innovative opportunities for our students. It felt good to have this confirmed.

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.

Kids for Cash

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the screening of Kids for Cash, a documentary about two judges in Luzerne County serving lengthy sentences for receipt of cash in connection with sentencing children to detention (though one of the judges continues to proclaim his innocence – you’ve really got to watch this film).  The screening was very well attended, and I was happy to see so many “Temple” people there – alumni like Abe and Sherri Reich and Judge Phyllis Beck, faculty like Rick Greenstein and Lou Natali, and friends like Stephen and Sandy Sheller.  It was wonderful to see two of our alumni, Marsha Levick and Bob Schwartz, co-founders of the Juvenile Law Center, featured for their prominent role in shining a light on this injustice (and hailed as the “heroes” of the film in this Inquirer review).

Kids for Cash has a lot to say to every person learning, teaching, and practicing law today.  I hope you’ll see it and let it speak to you.  Let it remind you why you went to law school in the first place – because you knew that with the right skills, education, and training, you could change the world.  You were right, and you still are.  Let it help you connect with who you were when you first chose law as a profession (or perhaps when it first chose you).  What was the vision of justice that inspired you at that time?  I hope the movie rekindles, or perhaps reaffirms, that vision for you.

I also hope the movie inspires you to listen when that voice inside tells you that something feels wrong.  Trust that instinct, and follow it.  Look carefully and with an open mind, and when you do find injustice, don’t be afraid to shine a light on it.  And be persistent.  Injustice doesn’t often give up easily.  In fact, the work is likely to be as daunting and difficult as the outcome is rewarding.  Marsha, Bob, and their colleagues found their persistence rewarded when thousands of children had unfair convictions expunged from their records.  What could be more rewarding than that?

Go see Kids for Cash, which opens in select theaters this Friday, and then ask yourself: where will you shine your light?

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.