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Recent Articles

30
Sep

“Canary in the coalmine”

Sayeth my friend and AALS president emeritus and U. Houston prof, Michael Olivas, in this disquieting story about the woes of a San Diego law school and what it portends for the future.

29
Sep

Motion to Lead campaign video

Check it out.

29
Sep

From the tech business trenches

namely the General Counsel at Adobe, comes a short, smart polemic on what law schools can do to help students navigate a rapidly changing marketplace for their new services.

As the examples (including NU’s) indicate, there is progress being made.  Here’s to a half full glass ‘o innovation!

29
Sep

Things to know about STEM

And one thing, listed #2 in this informative article, is that STEM-trained college grads are going into a variety of non-STEM fields, including law.

23
Sep

Northwestern Law in Spain

Visiting this week in Madrid with our partner law school, IE, with whom with have a joint LLM program focusing on international business law.  In addition to co-teaching with Judge Margaret McKeown of the United States Court of Appeals, I will be joining with the students of our program, a diverse cohort from many continents and countries.

The IE program, like our programs in Tel Aviv and Seoul, is run on an executive format and gives students the opportunity to learn from top professors (from Northwestern and the host schools) and develop focused expertise on subjects valuable to future legal (and business) careers in which exposure to American and international legal concepts, principles, and doctrines are increasingly important.

20
Sep

2014 Northwestern Law Alumni Awards

It was a great pleasure to host the 2014 Northwestern Law Alumni Awards yesterday, and I’m pleased to share with you some of the highlights:

 

2014 Dean’s Legacy Award winner

Kate Shaw (JD ’06) and the Honorable John Paul Stevens (JD ’47)

The Dean’s Legacy Award went to the Honorable John Paul Stevens. His award was presented by Kate Shaw, his former law clerk.

 

2014 Distinguished Alumni Award winner

Carter Phillips (JD ’77)

Carter Phillips addressed the crowd after receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award.

 

2014 Volunteer Service Award winner

Paul Meister (JD ’87)

The Volunteer Service Award was presented to Paul Meister.

 

2014 Dawn Clark Netsch Public Service award winner

Rahm Emanuel, Tina Tchen (JD ’84), and Dan Rodriguez

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel presented Tina Tchen with the Dawn Clark Netsch Public Service Award; your faithful blogger is there on the right.

 

2014 Emerging Leader Award winner

Todd Belcore (JD ’10) and Cindy Wilson (JD ’86)

The Emerging Leader Award was presented to Todd Belcore by Cindy Wilson, Clinical Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for Externships.

 

2014 Dean’s Partnership Award

Tom Geraghty (JD ’69), Cynthia Kobel, and Walter Bell (JD ’71)

The Dean’s Partnership Award was presented to the Kenneth F. and Harle G. Montgomery Foundation. Pictured here: Tom Geraghty, Professor and Director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic, with Cynthia Kobel and Walter Bell, who accepted the award on behalf of the foundation.

 

It was a great event – thanks to everyone who joined us for the celebration, and to our award winners, for all they do for Northwestern Law.

19
Sep

Motion to Lead campaign

Yesterday, Northwestern Law launched a historic fundraising campaign.

Motion to Lead: The Campaign for Northwestern Law will raise $150 million for financial aid, curricular innovation, law-business-technology programs, social justice initiatives, the Bluhm Legal Clinic, global projects, and the new Center for Practice Engagement & Innovation. This campaign will build the philanthropic support that will enable us—with creativity, energy, and innovative thinking—to address the challenges facing legal education. These challenges are inextricably bound up with the future of the legal profession, and how we prepare our students for that future.  Our students have high expectations of us, as they should. We are taking bold steps to meet and exceed these expectations.  This campaign is an example: it is the largest fundraising campaign in the school’s history.  We have already raised $67 million toward our very ambitious goal.  (To put that in historical context, our last campaign raised a total of $78 million.)  Developing the resources that will enable us to leverage our existing assets and create new ones is an essential obligation because in the future it will not be enough to be merely excellent.  In the future, the best law schools will be different in ways that make a difference. And that is our plan.

In the coming weeks, I’ll discuss more—much more—about the specifics of the campaign and the Law School’s strategic plan on this blog. I look forward to sharing that with you.

18
Sep

On lawyer competencies

Building on the “specialization” posts I referenced recently, another interesting post by Prof. Campbell of Peking Law.  How can I not agree with his analysis when he references Northwestern Law’s admissions process in particular?

I certainly associate myself with his observations about the role and pertinence of these key lawyer competencies.  Where I might quibble just a bit in his observation, referencing NYU in particular (although he might as well have referenced other law schools, including ours), that there is limited value added by the work within law school to develop these competencies.  I do believe there is more value that meets the eye.  Emphasis on developing business skills is growing and I think that is a fruitful development indeed.

17
Sep

Prof. Leigh Bienen’s intriguing biography of Florence Kelley

Florence Kelley and the Children

My colleague, Leigh Buchanan Bienen, who is first and foremost an expert on (and agitator for) capital punishment reform, just published a book about Florence Kelley—labor activist, political reformer, and 1895 Northwestern Law alumna. Kelley’s tireless efforts to reform labor laws, particularly for women and children, had a profound impact on working in the United States.

Florence Kelley and the Children: Factory Inspector in 1890s Chicago, focuses on Kelley’s life in Chicago in the 1890s, during which time she served as Chief Factory Inspector for the State of Illinois. A woman in a job like that was all but unheard of in those days, but so was a woman earning a law degree. Kelley put her legal education to good use in her lifelong efforts to change labor laws. She battled legislation challenging the Illinois factory inspection law all the way to the Supreme Court, and won. She was one of the contributors to the 1908 Brandeis Brief, which combined legal argument with scientific evidence and changed American jurisprudence forever, and she worked on other labor-law cases heard by the nation’s highest court. She was an appellate rock star in an age when women couldn’t vote.

The book is more than a just a history, though. Using biographical elements from her own life and work, Leigh draws interesting parallels between the struggles of the labor movement of the late 19th century and the events that led to the end of capital punishment in Illinois just a few years ago. Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here, describes the book in this way: “In these pages, Leigh Bienen offers a worthy tribute to Kelley and draws intriguing parallels to the struggles of today.”

My congratulations, and my thanks, to Leigh!

16
Sep

On specialization and the future of lawyering

Some very thoughtful, provocative comments here and here by way of Prof. Ray Campbell at The Faculty Lounge.  Well worth a careful read.

Here is one quotation which frames the basic argument:

“[L]aw practice has changed fundamentally since Langdell reformed law teaching. Today law practice is highly specialized, and rather than roaming across the field of the common law modern lawyers tend to their own narrow patch of expertise. Today, no one can master all the ‘dogma’ that is routinely applied by lawyers in the major law firms or major government agencies. There is just too much. Whatever marks the commonality of the practice of law – and should therefore play into the training of lawyers – it’s not applying the same technical legal expertise on a day to day basis.

Neither does the background knowledge or skill reflected in ‘thinking like a lawyer’ provide a sufficient answer to training lawyers. As practice has evolved, legal reasoning remains important – much as putting is important to golf – but it’s far from the whole game.”

The “quandary,” Campbell notes, is how law schools ought to best train these students who will encounter a highly specialized practice.  I have some thoughts on that (as he and others certainly do).  More on that in a future post.  But, for now, note the important implication he draws from these observations about the trends toward specialization and commodification of legal services:

“As legal practice becomes more and more specialized, the possibilities for non-lawyer specialists to take on roles that used to belong to lawyers become ever greater. If a lawyer does not actually need broad based legal training to proved the specialized service, competitors who are not lawyers can enter the market unless the market is protected. On the corporate side, where regulatory barriers are largely papered over by having general counsel in between the law workers and the non-lawyer clients, we can already see a number of these – e-discovery specialists, document review specialists, litigation consultants, merger and acquisitions consultants, and on and on. Other countries, including the UK, have opened the doors to such providers, and some states have relaxed or are looking at relaxing barriers on the consumer side of the market. I think the range of non-lawyer specialists that compete for law work will only become more extensive and more elite over time.”

This is an enormous issue, of course, and one that is best framed around both positive and normative analyses.  I might quibble with the description as regulatory barriers being “largely papered over”  — claims regarding the unauthorized practice of law don’t always fail, and there has been controversy stirred up by individuals and entities entering the so-called traditional lawyer space with various services (litigation involving Legal Zoom, for example, continues in various state courts).  But the general point, that specialization in legal practice has and can drive legal generalists out of key parts of the market, seems surely right as a descriptive matter.  The normative implications, to say, the obvious are controversial and fascinating.