Recent legal education publications from ALTA

The beginning of the year heralds the release of a range of publications under the aegis of the Australian Law Teachers Association.

Their website now contains the 2013 editions of the

* Legal Education Review (LER), Volume.23, No.1&2
* Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association (JALTA), Volume.6, No.1&2 (also available as individual papers here)

The publications are well worth scanning for articles of interest.  There is something in there to excite, inspire or infuriate everyone (and parochially great to see five articles from UNSW in the mix).

The best law school classes for practice: Harvard survey

The Abstract of this recent publication:

“We report the results of an online survey, conducted on behalf of Harvard Law School, of 124 practicing attorneys at major law firms. The survey had two main objectives: (1) to assist students in selecting courses by providing them with data about the relative importance of courses; and (2) to provide faculty with information about how to improve the curriculum and best advise students. The most salient result is that students were strongly advised to study accounting and financial statement analysis, as well as corporate finance. These subject areas were viewed as particularly valuable, not only for corporate/transactional lawyers, but also for litigators. Intriguingly, non-traditional courses and skills, such as business strategy and teamwork, are seen as more important than many traditional courses and skills.”

The full document is here.

In addition to the many other caveats that apply to such surveys (e.g., legal education is not just for practice or even big law firm practice, practitioners may not be the best judges of which courses are best, etc), for law students and law schools outside America the usual cautions apply to the applicability/relevance of such surveys in the different contexts of non-American legal systems and within different educational environments.  Nonetheless, the survey is interesting.

Although perhaps a minority view among the survey respondents, I particularly liked the following:

One self-identified Yale Law graduate with five to ten years of experience in a corporate department wrote:

What most matters is that students (i) develop deep analytical abilities, and (ii) can navigate accounting materials and technical literature (e.g., figuring out how the economics are working within a complex fund structure).

This commenter suggested, however, that Accounting and Corporate Finance were useful as “vocabulary” and to “help students identify issues,” but emphasized there was “value to having  students develop their analytical abilities both within those more practice-focused realms and within areas of more academic interest (e.g., Islamic law).”

By Colin Picker

Submitting articles to US law journals – Part 2 (pros and cons)

It is very tempting at this time of year to send an article to a US law review (ExpressO beckons) (why this time of year – see here).  But, there are, of course, benefits and detriments to US student run journal submission (I do differentiate them from the few US peer reviewed law journals). 

While others have written on this before (here  and here), I thought I would share some thoughts based on my experiences on this issue – based on my past experience as a student editor on a US student run law journal (the YJIL) and on my experiences having published numerous times in both US student run journals and in the more traditional law journals found outside the US (many of which have student operation components, though those are significantly less than found in US student run journals).

The below is a quick and dirty list of pros and cons as you ponder whether to submit.

Pros

Multiple submissions at one time, with the ability to game the system through expedited review processes to get accepted into as prestigious a journal as possible;

Quick submission decision turnaround (within a month or two);

Detailed high quality line editing (they would have made the English in the post perfect – or perhaps simply technically correct);

At the most prestigious journal the substantive editing can be exceptional;

High quality source (footnote) checking ensures accuracy;

Willingness to format the paper and footnotes;

Post publication access via Westlaw, Lexis, Hein, etc (better access than some of the smaller non-US publishing houses’ law journals);

Many are considered prestigious, despite not being peer reviewed;

Many speciality journals are willing to publish the less traditional field and approaches; and

Will accept lengthy articles.

Cons

Not considered peer review in most non-US law schools (and hence sometimes not countable for promotion or grant applications);

Sometimes excessive and ill-conceived substantive editing and interference in the author’s version of the paper (a complaint heard increasingly often);

Student editors not experts or experienced in the fields under review, with academic supervision often absent or minimal or with the academic supervisor also not experienced or knowledgeable about the fields;

Student editors often exhibit footnote and source fetishism (everything has a footnote added with multiple “string” citations);

Delays in publication can be excessive (as long as a year);

The most prestigious generalist law journals (the school’s primary journals and hence the most prestigious in most rankings) often will not accept non-US domestic law submissions or specialized field submissions (such as international fields);

Article acceptance often based on reputation of the author or the author’s institution;

Substantive analysis of the acceptance decision made by inexperienced law students;

Less willing to accept the standard length articles found outside the US; and

Often a requirement that the first part of the article lay out basic information on the field (otherwise the student editors will be unable to understand the substantive points of the article), which itself contributes to the needless length of the article.

Readers – any other pros and cons?

So – should one publish in a US student run journal?  It depends.  But, I can say that having moved to publishing in non-US peer reviewed journals  I now have little desire to submit my work to US student run journals.  I have grown used to the sophisticated reviews I receive from the peer review process and to the respect my writing and style receives from the editors who exhibit only minimal interference with my work.  I also believe shorter articles are better – if the idea cannot be expressed in under 15000 words (perhaps even under 10000 words) then perhaps it should be published as a book.  Also, the excessive citations and footnotes inserted into the US student run journal articles is unnecessary and detracts from the real sources readers wish to see or which the author wishes to emphasize.  So – for me, the non-US journals will be my future preferred fora. But, that is just my opinion.

By Colin Picker

Teaching the History of Lawyering

Reposting from the Legal History Blog an interesting discussion on teaching the history of lawyering  “Who Do We Think We Are?: A History of Lawyering” by Bernard Hibbits of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.  Let me provide an extract, as he talks about how he put a course on the history of lawyering together:

“. . . I began to find lawyers in places and positions where I didn’t really expect to find them, and I began to rethink the very idea of offering a “professional” history of lawyering, slowly inclining towards a broader “cultural” history of lawyering that would overtly regard lawyers as having a truly fundamental role in the development of American society in particular, from explorers to investors to orators to revolutionaries to framers to politicians to poets to evangelists to soldiers to editors to entrepreneurs to CEOs to activists and so on, and on, and on. Here, right before me, were individuals who as a class could truly be described (pace Gramsci) as the “organic intellectuals” of the American experience (arguably much more so than members of any other professional or occupational group), but about whom we had told our law students little or nothing.

How crazy is that? Right now, when we want to inspire our law students, raise their horizons, broaden their minds, and prepare them (by necessity) for a world beyond the Scylla of BigLaw on the one hand and the Charybdis of solo practice on the other, shouldn’t we be telling them about these people, their successes and their failures, their strengths and their weaknesses, their dreams and their delusions? This is no celebratory “lawyers’ history” that I’m proposing, but rather a living, breathing, warts-and-all history of lawyering – a history of lawyers as people whose examples and actions, for good or ill, can be offered to our students. What do they have to gain from all this? Two things at least: first, a better, more accurate and more ambitious sense of themselves and their own potential as lawyers, and second, a humility that comes from knowing that they are not the first generation of lawyers to strive, to struggle, to succeed and even sometimes to fail. . . .”

Professor Hibbitts’s post will apparently be the first of a series by him on the history of lawyering course at that blog running this month.

By Colin B. Picker

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