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.

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.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Temple Law

It is always inspiring to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. I was particularly excited to celebrate his birthday at this morning’s Barristers Association of Philadelphia Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Memorial Breakfast, where two members of the Temple Law School family were honored. Albert S Dandridge III, a partner at Schnader Harrison Segal and Lewis, LLP, received the Honorable William F. Hall Award. Bennett Lomax and The Lomax Companies received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Outstanding Service to the Community. I was then honored to present the Keynote Address at the Barristers’ service project at the Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter High School. I was particularly excited to discover that I was speaking to a group of students who otherwise had the day off. They were present to participate in a program sponsored by the Barristers to give them instructions and an opportunity to participate in the art of public speaking. Yet another highlight came in meeting two of the volunteer Instructors, Temple Law students Danielle Newsome, a second-year, and Ashley Myers, a first-year, as they were leading the students in an oral presentation exercise.

Day classes were cancelled at the law school so that members of our community could participate in service projects.  In addition to the many individually chosen activities in which members of our community participated, we had two organized events this year. About 60 people attended our annual training for the IRS’ VITA program, through which Temple Law students, faculty, and staff volunteer to help low income taxpayers prepare their annual income tax returns, often enabling them to obtain substantial (and much needed) refunds without being exposed to predatory or unlawful tax preparation services.  Another 25 or so participated in a cleanup project at the John F. Street Community Center, part of the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Richard Allen Homes development, that was organized by the Office of Public Interest Programs, Black Law Students Association (BLSA), and Student Public Interest Network (SPIN).  I am both proud of and grateful for the service of everyone who marked Dr. King’s birthday in these and other meaningful ways.

Click here for coverage of the Temple Law School sponsored events.

Welcome

In our part of the world, January is almost universally perceived as a time for starting anew. For most people, this means starting a new diet; for me, this year, it means flirting with the idea of starting a diet, but committing to starting a blog.

Chances are that two questions flow from that statement for most of you: “why would a law school dean start a blog?” and “why should I read it?.” The first answer is easy: I’m asked a lot about what is going on at the law school, and sometimes, more generally, what is going on in legal education.  I want to create a place for community dialogue on issues impacting Temple Law,our parent University, legal education, and the legal profession, and to share with you some of the more interesting experiences that I get to have as Dean.  (I promise to spare you the less interesting ones). The second answer is largely up to you, but I hope it will involve a mutual love for at least one of these overlapping communities and an excitement for the potential that each of them has to do some very real good in the world.

 

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.”