Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Weekly Roundup--Feb. 28, 2007

This week, my cutting edge, ad hoc survey of the blogosphere has uncovered the following gems.

A Jury of Their Subordinates. Law.com recently ran a piece on "upward reviews"--namely, associate reviews of partners. It's an interesting practice, and one that not enough law firms implement.

I have worked at firms that implemented upward reviews and firms that did not. At my first firm (Katten Muchin & Zavis--now KMZ Rosenman), the corporate department (of which I was a member) did upward reviews. There was a critical mass of associates to ensure that the reviews were anonymous. The reviews were candid and honest--sometimes brutally so. And therefore they were useful. But at my last firm (Baker & McKenzie), I never went through an upward review. The problem was not so much recalcitrant partners as it was that I worked in small departments. When you have three associates, there's no critical mass, and no anonymity. And that's too bad. Even when you have an excellent working relationship with someone, there are things you are reluctant to say in person, or that would be counter-productive if you did. Anonymous reviews can help remedy that.

More on Law School Curricular Reform. At the Law School Innovation blog, Gene Koo has a good post on skills education in law schools and why it is so important to emphasize this. Koo points out that firms and judges are increasingly trying to hire people with experience, instead of new grads. This is, of course, a way to avoid training costs.
It reminds me of when I was in high school and trying to get a job in fast food joints: each one wanted to know what experience I had in the fast food industry. And that meant I ended up getting my experience in a totally crappy pizza dive that used fake cheese. No joke. Fortunately, I worked my way up the chain (pun intended) to Pizza Hut.

Computers in the Classroom, Part XXVII. A post on CALIopolis suggests the "real" reason why law profs dislike computers in the classroom. The graphic says it all--absolutely classic and priceless, so definitely check it out. But I have to say from experience that what bugs me is not a student's laptop--it's the broad smile on a student's face while I am lecturing on something serious. Is there a disconnect there? Rhetorical question, of course.

Gluttons for Punishment. WSJ.com has a post about a forthcoming documentary on people taking the bar exam. I know the California bar exam is hard, but apparently one guy is taking it for the 42nd time. Ouch.


Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering, speaking of 42d attempts to pass the bar: has anyone ever looked at the bar exam and MPRE to see if they are valid and accurate predictors of what they purport to measure? That is, is success on those exams a bona fide occupational qualification or merely, as it was explained to me today (by an attorney taking the MPRE in her third state in 10 years) "the hazing ritual of the law."

If a short person applies for a job as a lawyer and is told that the hiring test involves speed at sorting books on a shelf at 6' off the ground and they can't reach the shelf without moving a stool from point to point, they will reasonably ask "What does this have to do with being a lawyer here?"

Isn't the bar exam the same thing? it's an arbitrary exam that has only one relationship to the practice of law--you have to pass it to be allowed to practice law.

A number of practicing attorneys were at the MPRE today, and they agreed that practicing attorney must study hard for the bar because THEY REMEMBER NONE OF IT and it tests the arcane distinctions that are irrelevant to most practice.

In other words, successful practitioners of the trade must spends hundreds or thousands of dollars on study materials and then hundreds more on an exam whose sole distinguishing characteristic is its total absence of relevance or close correlation to bona fide occupational skills and knowledge (otherwise, practicing attorneys would pass the exam with ease).

I also wonder whether there is any correlation between scores on the MPRE and subsequent attorney discipline problems --- bet not.

Someday I hope that one of the "paralawyers" -- the people who know a lot and have a lot of experience working for and with lawyers but who just can NOT pass the damn thing for the life of them -- sues the bar and makes the bar show the basis on which it ties entry to the profession in large part to a passing score on a multiple guess exam.

The bar exam is not just a hazing ritual though--it is a dead loss to society, consuming thousands of otherwise-useful attorney hours and wasting them just as surely as if the test involved digging and filling in holes; and, like digging the holes, it does not benefit the society, it only protects the in-state lawyers by deterring out-of-staters. Thus, a modest proposal:

Universal reciprocity for US lawyers who agree to pay $3000 to the new state's "Access to Justice" fund (or other poverty law program) or donates 50 hours to the supevised practice of pro-bono law in the new state. An actual boon to the public, the people that the bar exam is purported to protect. A useful way to introduce the out-of-state lawyer to the rules in the new state. And an end to the gross waste and misapplication of human capital that is the bar exam.

Law Student Blog Source said...

I know the California bar exam is hard, but apparently one guy is taking it for the 42nd time.