Thursday morning began for me with a session on “Revamping the Law School Curriculum.” It was focused on how different schools have moved to alter or revamp their curriculum, especially the first year. The moderator was Dean Dennis Honabach, Northern Kentucky University. The speakers were Dean Edward Rubin of Vanderbilt University Law School, Prof. John Sobieski of University of Tennessee, and Associate Dean Mark Niles of American University, Washington College of Law. This was a really interesting panel and I’m glad I attended.

Associate Dean Niles talked about integrated teaching and the notion of a first year elective in the spring. The motivation for those changes were to make the first year curriculum more helpful for other curriculum. In other words, to help the students prepare more for the upper-level classes and also for the practice of law. The integrated teaching was fascinating. The way it would work, for example, is the sections of the first years, the teachers who taught all the different subject areas would come together and teach in a coordinated manner so that the subjects they were talking about correlated or corresponded to those going on in other classes. They also came up with a joint problem that involved all the subject areas. The pedagogical reason for this is that in the practice of law you rarely have a torts problem, it has a lot of components to it and so they want us to think about the first year curriculum more globally. The second idea and sudden innovation there was an elective for students in the first year and there were 10 that students could choose from like international law, environmental, state regulation, there were just a number and those were a segway also into upper-level classes. Now the problem was coordinating if a student took that class what that meant for say environmental law in a second and third year and they’re still working through that and different professors have responded in different ways, but those are some interesting ideas.

Dean Rubin talked about offering a new course called The Regulatory State in the First Year. Also that they offered a contract class and the first year was offered as a transactional contract class, that the property class included money, financing and debt issues to alert students again to notions coming in later law school classes, criminal law classes included criminal justice and policing and that the idea was to make courses more sophisticated and because of this more of a foundation for courses to follow. He criticized the casebook model because he said that the practice of law is more than appellate advocacy and that what students do in the first year now is read all these appellate cases and he said that their approach allowed the professors to teach a number of additional skills in addition to appellate argument, for example, to work collegially, present information, and problem solve and to bring more experiential elements into the first year. So, for example, drafting a statute with feedback, the contract course oriented toward teaching the contracts themselves rather than adjudicating and the students had to draft a contract, so that was pretty interesting.

John Sobieski was a clinical director for thirteen years before becoming dean at Tennessee. He talked about litigation, sort of two tracks in his law school, litigation advocacy versus transactional concentrations, so they built concentrations and students can get a certificate. There are building block courses in each track, in the second and third year, so for example, PR, evidence, trial ad. came with the same set of materials and problems that students had to work through. That track would be followed then by ICN, ADR, and pre-trial. For business courses, there was tax business association, contract drafting, commercial law, and finance representing business entities or business tax were the cap stone courses. And as I mentioned before, students get a certificate of concentration. Many of the substantive courses had clinical components at their school, in addition to the two tracks. For example, if you take family law, there’s an option to work in a domestic violence clinic, trust and estates had a wills clinic. Some very innovative ideas from other law schools and a very interesting panel.

After that panel, I joined Larry Weeden from Texas Southern and Lydie Pierre-Louis of St. Thomas for lunch at Thaikyo again just to get a break from the hotel food and had a really yummy lunch called volcano shrimp which was kind of spicy shrimp served on a bed of vegetables with brown rice, so that was pretty good. Of course we talked about everything from being new in the academy to getting through the tenure process to how people make lateral moves to the people of color conferences and the history of those and how helpful those can be and common friends we had in the academy, so it was really a delightful lunch.

After lunch, I came back and attended the session on “International of Legal Education: Best Practices for International Programs.” The moderator was Dean Claudio Grossman. The speakers were Dean Ian Holloway of University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law, Associate Dean Bill Adams of Nova Southeastern University, Prof. William Mock of John Marshall Law School, and Prof. Joseph Morrisey of Stetson University College of Law. The takeaway from this panel was just the various ways in which law schools are internationalizing their programs, so there seemed to be a number of approaches. For one, would be a joint degree program where students would attend law school for four years say and they go to school in another country as well as in the United States and when they end up they have a degree from both institutions as well as the right to sit for the bar to be admitted to practice in both countries and that’s very helpful and that’s the program that Dean Grossman’s school has. There’s also several other ways law schools have international lines in their curriculum. One is main streaming the curriculum just by putting international components in each class or a comparative approach in each class. Another is a semester abroad program. Some schools had regularized semesters where students would go and attend school in another country and receive credit at the home institution for that, there are the summer programs of which you know we have two, the St. Petersburg program and the Cambridge program. Then a number of schools were using intersession classes to take students abroad for exposure. In fact, one school had an externship program that occurred during an intersession for two weeks and had really good success placing students into law firms for that two or three week period. Then there was the notion of having international law as a first year class to include that in the curriculum either as an elective or as a required course to introduce students to international law early on in their careers. And then the final idea was a, and I like this one and I think we may do this one with the Ukraine, four week class offered in the summer and then it had a two or three week field trip attached to a country. The thing about this is, and we need to talk to Bill Mock at John Marshall Law, because this was what they do and we could get more details. The good thing about that is it doesn’t lock us in to the same place every year and it allows you to take advantage of connections that faculty have made in other countries, so the students would just register for the class, they could add on the field trip or not as they please and then the faculty would go with the students to these particular places, so there are a lot of ways to integrate international law into the curriculum and schools are doing very innovative things. It was good to go there and pick up some of those ideas.

The next panel that day was one on “Promoting Faculty Scholarship: What Kind of Scholarship Should be Promoted?” The moderator was Prof. Brandon Denning from Samford University, Cumberland School of Law. The speakers were Benjamin Barton, Professor at University of Tennessee; Dean Darby Dickerson at Stetson; Ron Krotoszynski, Professor at the University of Alabama; Caprice Roberts, Professor at West Virginia University; and Jim Rossi, Professor at Florida State College of Law.

Prof. Krotoszynski talked about pedagogy and scholarship should be complimentary and the need when evaluating faculty to be realistic and fair. He also raised a good point of thinking about a narrative to tell to the Provost. In other words, what is it that you see as the vision of the law school’s contributions to the University community and to the broader state. He gave several suggestions for encouraging scholarship which first was reward and recognize scholarship, to make clear that you care and to recognize success. I think we could do a better job of that, so that was good advice. The second was to create a community in which scholarship is treated on a parity with other job duties. The third was to encourage internal workshops for works in progress. He said a lot of times law schools will invite in scholars to present works in progress and we treat people from the outside better than we do our own and we need to create a climate to encourage our own folks who are working on drafts. The fourth is treat scholarship as a way of building bridges with other departments. I know that in the past we have reached out to scholars from other departments and allowed them to present their work. And then the last one was create safe spaces for younger faculty to present scholarship and that is one of my goals for the upcoming year, so his remarks were very helpful.

Then Caprice Roberts’ remarks were more directed towards the young scholars and she reminded them to create a research agenda. She also gave a caveat in terms of empirical scholarship that is very time consuming and it may not be the best thing to take on pre-tenure.

Ben Barton, who is a clinician, said the focus should be on hard work and engagement when reviewing scholarship, how engaged the person is and whether they’re working hard to get scholarship out. He said in his particular case he picked scholarship on the basis of what he’s interested in. He also sounded the theme of letting people know why it is we do scholarship, what the reason is.

Dean Darby Dickerson asked a number of questions. First of all, she said, “What is your institutional mission?” and that helps you figure out what you value in terms of scholarship, then her second question was “Why do we value scholarship?” and she said it’s a refuge for intellectual engagement. She was not as big on where it’s placed as much as whether the person producing it was engaged while undertaking study and then third she asked, “What is scholarship?” She said it’s defined as knowledge required by study, so she said I think that we should be more thoughtful about process and intellectual engagement as much as product and that deans should adopt a big tent definition of scholarship. She said, “Don’t label faculty necessarily on the basis of the courses they are assigned to teach if they have an intellectual pursuit that engages them.” She also said to be sure to give faculty applause for publications and presentations. She gives a gift to faculty members at a faculty meeting for their first book. Senior faculty at her school create a safe environment and they have a series called, and I like this idea, the half-baked series which you can bring your papers before you’re really far down the path to just think out loud about them and it’s a safe environment. This panel also spent a good deal of time talking about SSRN, some thought it was great because of the immediate impact, that blogs pick it up, they caution though that you be sure when you put it out there that it’s a clean piece and well thought out. Then suggestions about motivating senior faculty, provide them opportunities to present what they’re thinking about and to have folks think about things that they’re doing more broadly outside of the writing context, that they might turn into a writing project. Some schools for summer research grants have a 20% hold back on the research grant until the product shows up and also tied to summer research grants in that model is an expectation that you’ll present your research, and that’s an interesting idea. That would be, I think, one worthy of discussion with colleagues. And then finally, the last idea was to encourage the idea of co-authorship for senior faculty, so that was a really useful session.

That evening a group of faculty members from different schools went to Riggin’s Crabhouse, which was a very casual, fun atmosphere. We had a long table and a great meal and great conversation, lots of very vigorous discussion both about the academy, politics, personal lives, it was a great time. That was fun evening.