Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Peacemaking in Ferguson -- My Heart Goes to all St. Louisians

My Home Town's Journey

This recent communication from my mediation community touched me deeply.

From: Sandy Heierbacher [mailto:sandy@NCDD.ORG]
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 8:11 AM
Subject: [NCDD-UPDATES] What can the dialogue & deliberation community do after Ferguson?

Message to the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation community, from NCDD’s Director...

Hi, everyone. Many of us are reeling from the events in Ferguson. Some of you may be involved in protests in your own cities right now.

Last night, President Obama addressed the nation after it was announced that Darren Wilson would not be indicted. In his remarks, I couldn’t help but think he was talking about the work that many of you do. The juxtaposition on the split screen of Obama encouraging protestors to stay peaceful on one side, and tear gas canisters being thrown by police in riot fear [sic?] on the other side was bizarre. But what Obama talked about was not.

He talked about America’s long-standing struggle with race relations and racial inequity, and how despite considerable progress being made over the years, much more work [needs] to be done. He emphasized the need for criminal justice reform and for stronger police-community relations. He mentioned that there are communities that have been able to deal with this in an effective way.

Here is a quote that I’d like to draw your attention to:
But what we want to do is to make sure that we’re also focusing on those who can offer the kind of real progress that we know is possible, that the vast majority of people in Ferguson, the St. Louis region, in Missouri and around the country are looking for. And I want to be partner with those folks, and we need to lift up that kind of constructive dialogue that’s taking place.
We know one of his strategies is to work with the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS), which has offices in 15 locations across the country. CRS provides mediation, dialogue, and reconciliation services for communities in crisis, and is interested in finding ways to partner with NCDD members who can potentially increase their effectiveness and reach.

NCDD has actually been working with the Community Relations Service to plan meetings in late January between NCDD members and CRS staff in as many of their offices as possible. If you are interested in participating, read the post at http://ncdd.org/16724 and then send an email to joy@ncdd.org and sandy@ncdd.org letting us know you’d like to join in. This opportunity is limited to supporting members of NCDD, so you may need to join or get your dues caught up. We’d also love your ideas about what you’d like to see happen at those meetings.

But there are things you can do immediately as well.

We’ve blogged about some of our members’ top resources for addressing racial conflict and inequity through dialogue and action at http://ncdd.org/15953. Please share this post widely so people will understand what Obama meant when he said “we need to lift up that kind of constructive dialogue that’s taking place.”

And please put these resources to use! If your community needs to have a conversation NOW, and you’re concerned that you don’t have enough time at this point to organize a dialogue-to-action project or a national issues forum quickly and effectively, I’d suggest you start by holding one or more Conversation Cafes.

Conversation Cafes are super-simple 90-minute dialogues that anyone can host. They are great tools to use for rapid response, and in organizing a Conversation Cafe you may very well be able to find more people interested in working with you to organize a more in-depth dialogue process that can lead to collaborative action.

Everything you need to host a Conversation Cafe can be found at http://ncdd.org/rc/item/92 or at www.conversationcafe.org.

Please share this message with others if you find it helpful. And good luck with all the important work you are doing! You all are so needed in this world.

Sandy Heierbacher

Director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation

sandy@ncdd.orgwww.ncdd.org • @ncdd & @heierbacher

The 2014 NCDD conference has been storified! Check it out at www.storify.com/ncdd/ncdd-2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Advice for Solo Practitioners

Keeping Track of Good Advice

Several of the bloggers I follow write on solo practice.  I want to start aggregating their advice in one of my posts.  So, here I go:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Debate Begins on Reason for Drop in National Bar Passage Rates

Graduate Competence or 
Design and Scoring Problems?

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported the onset of a debate about the surprising drop in bar passage rates on a national basis.  It said: 
A steep decline in bar exam scores on the most recent test has led to an outbreak of finger-pointing over who’s to blame for the downward swing. 
In a sharply worded letter, the dean of Brooklyn Law School on Monday reproached the head of a national bar exam group for suggesting to law school leaders that their graduates who took the July exam were less prepared than students who sat for the test in previous years. 
The dean’s letter came in response to an October memo by Erica Moeser, the president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, addressed to law school deans across the country in which she defended the integrity of the group’s exam and raised concerns about the ability of the would-be lawyers who took it.
She continued: “While we always take quality control of MBE scoring very seriously, we redoubled our efforts to satisfy ourselves that no error occurred in scoring the examination or in equating the test with its predecessors. The results are correct. . . All point to the fact that the group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July 2013.” 
Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas W. Allard fired back on Monday with a letter to Ms. Moeser. He said he found her assertions unconvincing and demanded a “thorough investigation of the administration and scoring” of the July 2014 exam. 
“We don’t know what evidence you have to support this surprising (and surprisingly disparaging) claim, but we do have evidence about our own 2014 graduates, and it tells us precisely the opposite: their credentials were every bit as good as our 2013 graduates, if not even better,” he wrote. 
Ms. Moeser couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday. 
Ms. Moeser’s letter didn’t cite specific scoring data for the exam given in July. But it gels with figures released by states showing significant declines in the passage rates for many of them. 
The overall passage rate for the Texas exam given in July, for example, was 11 percentage points lower than last year’s results. Idaho, Iowa, Oregon and Washington were among other states reporting sharp drops. 
The passage rate for Brooklyn Law School graduates who took the bar for the first time in July was nearly 10 percentage points lower than last year’s rate, Mr. Allard told Law Blog. He said the median LSAT score for the 2013 and 2014 cohorts was 163 in both cases. A private institution in downtown Brooklyn, Mr. Allard’s law school enrolls about 1,000 full-time students.

“What is her basis for saying the students are less able? I think that’s offensive. I don’t believe it,” Mr. Allard, who is also a senior partner at Squire Patton Boggs, told Law Blog on Monday.

November 16, 2014 Update: Another point of view.  And, another.

November 20, 2014 Update:  Story about dip in bar pass rates at all Texas law schools. Chart in linked story. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Filling the Needs of Rural Clients

Another Gap 
Created by 
Retiring Baby Boomer Lawyers

Over the last several years, several state and local bar associations have focused on under-served clients living in rural areas.  Twenty percent of the U.S. population resides in rural counties, but only two percent of law practices locate there.  

The October 2014 issue of the ABA Journal re-visits the topic again, profiling a number of lawyers practicing in rural North Dakota and South Dakota.  The article, Too Many Lawyers? Not Here. In Rural America, Lawyers are Few and Far Between by Lorelei Laird, gives a general overview of the situation, identifies a number of resources, and suggests the adaptations to rural practice required of young lawyers. An associated podcast is here.

Additional states -- including Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska, Vermont, Montana, New Hampshire, and Maine -- have started various types of programs designed to encourage younger lawyers to practice in rural areas.  

Other resources on this topic include:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

ASL Lion's Club Shrimp Boil and Corn Hole Tournement

A Touch of New Orleans 
the Kentucky Derby Melded for a Charitable Cause

Several years ago, our Dean, Lucy McGough, joined us after having lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana most of her academic career.  Soon, events linked to that history came to campus. First, came the sale of home-made gumbo to raise funds for a local charity.  Then, ASL had its first shrimp boil.  

Last month, the local chapter of the Lion's Club sponsored  the second shrimp boil on campus along with a corn hole tournament designed to raise money for its many worthwhile projects.  The local organization especially focuses on the needs of the low-income residents of Buchanan County who need eye exams and eyeglasses.  

I profiled the Lion's Club as a student organization here.

Students and faculty at ASL enjoyed a meal of spicy shrimp, sausages, corn, and potatoes. Many of the students participated in the corn hole tournament.  Josh Kinzer, the President of the Grundy Chapter of the Lions Clubs International, explained that the event raised awareness about Lion's Club projects. 

Micah Bailey, an ASL 3L student, brought his lovely wife and son. He said: "It was a great opportunity to meet other students and mingle with the faculty members.  The turnout was amazing, and we could not be more pleased with the student body participation." 

In a small town like Grundy, students quickly learn how they can create their own fun while serving the community through many community service projects. I blogged about ASL's award-winning community service program here.

Love you all so much!  You are lovely and big-hearted.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Update On the Aging of Lawyers in Private Practice

What Happens When 
Baby Boomers Retire?

In April 2013, I wrote about the possible opportunities for new lawyers created by the increasing age of lawyers -- who will eventually retire. 

Bill Henderson, of The Legal Whiteboard blog, provides a very interesting analysis of his data on this topic here.  One of his findings:
The big surprise here is that the proportion of young lawyers (under age 35) has been declining for several decades. And not by a little, but by a lot. During this period, the median age went from 39 in 1980, to 41 in 1991, to 45 in 2000, to 49 in 2005.
Some of his conclusions:
The analysis above suggests that the JD Advantage / JD Preferred employment market started to take shape several decades ago, long before these terms were put in place by the ABA and NALP. Yet, we really don't know about these careers. To construct a more useful, informative narrative, we'd have to systematically study the career paths of our alumni. That task is long overdue.
I blogged on the JD Advantage market here and here.

More of Henderson's conclusions:  
My own conclusion is that neither the organized bar nor the legal academy has a firm grip on the changes that are occurring in the legal marketplace. This uncertainty and confusion is understandable in light of the magnitude of the shift. 
Nonetheless, these market shifts create special urgency for legal educators because we can't teach what we don't understand. The thesis of the Young Lawyers Board is surely right -- if unchanged, legal education will remain a business in decline. Much of legal education today is premised on a 20th century professional archetype--an archetype that is, based on the data, becoming less and less relevant with each passing day. Thus, we are under-serving our students. And frankly, they are figuring that out.

Change is hard for people and organizations they work in. And law professors and law schools are no different. The retooling of legal education will likely be a slow, painful process that will take the better part of a full generation to complete. I am trying to do my part. 
Yet, the brunt of the demographic shift falls on the licensed bar, which is getting older and thus weaker with each passing year. This is a problem that belongs to the ABA, the state bars, and the state supreme courts, not the legal academy.

Nov. 18, 2014 Update:  For a graphic and more cynical look at this topic, see here

Saturday, October 18, 2014

My Experience with "Flipping" the Classroom

Feeling Like a 
Master of the Universe!

As many of you know, I spent the last year in a mastermind business coaching program that has made me comfortable with web-based platforms designed to build communities, deliver content, and market services.  

I have proved that old dogs can learn new tricks.  In fact, this old dog is teaching the new tricks to folks much younger than myself. 

My latest focus is on the "flipped" or "blended" classroom. These classes use the best of on-line education married with more traditional classroom approaches.  

The Instructional Technology blog from Albany Law School provides a number of links to information about the "flipped" classroom.  

Other resources include the following:

  • Sean F. Nolan, Using Distance Learning to Teach Environmental Problem-Solving Skills and Theory, 28 J. Envt'l Law & Litigation 211 (2013).
  • Gerald F. Hess, Blended Courses in Law School: The Best of Online and Face-to-Face Learning, 45 McGeorge L. Rev. 51 (2013).
  • Steven C. Bennett, Distance Learning in Law, 38 Seton Hall Legis. J. 1 (2013).
  • Dale Dewhurst, The Case Method, Law School Learning Objectives and Distance Education, 6 Can. Legal Educ. Ann. Rev. 59 (2012).

My Experience with Web-Based Learning 

In May, I launched the first, or one of the first, web-based training courses for mediators.  I called it: Mediation with Heart, Web-Based Training for Change Agents.  

It blends recorded video lectures, with slides; weekly discussions, roleplays, or exercises hosted in a Google Hangout; and several binders of written materials.  Students also read two text books, one of which has additional video resources demonstrating difference aspects of mediation.  Students in that course will complete it by the end of this month.  

While I do not yet have their evaluations of the course, based on their on-going comments, they feel they have gotten a high quality training that prepares them well for mediation practice.  Several have said that the coverage exceeds what they could have gotten in a traditional 40-hour course, squeezed into a week of live training. I agree.   

For one thing, each student received at least three hours of role-play coaching by me.  They will do a final, in-person, mediation that will involve over five hours of observation, coaching, and feedback from me. The live courses cannot provide that type of individualized attention.  Frankly, if I scale the course, I may price those opportunities separately because they are time consuming and do add significant value to the training. 

For a sample of one of my webinars, follow this link.  It discusses confidentiality in mediation.

Flipped Law School Classes

This past semester, I introduced my law students in two skills courses to the video webinar lectures that I created for my summer training course.  I used two of them as make-up classes. After watching them, students completed a quiz or exercise to prove they had absorbed and could apply the lecture material.  They were all especially thankful that we did not need to schedule a make-up class during the busiest part of the semester.  

In my Certified Civil Mediation course, the webinars give me flexibility to focus on skill-building exercises in class. Students can watch the recorded webinars before or after class.  In addition, they have access to content that might be more pertinent once they enter the field -- like skillful ways to provide mediator evaluations.  

Moreover, I am providing links to all the content as added value for those students. Long after students graduate, they will still have access to this recorded content.  They can access it when they face difficult issues as mediators.  

In addition, students who did not take my 2L Dispute Resolution course can access content I discussed in that course after I reintroduce it in the 3L mediation course. Even students who took my 2L course can review that material.  

Other Opportunities for Learning

I've recorded an interview with Bob Creo about "Master Moves" to break impasse in mediation.  I blogged about that webinar here.   I would like to record more interviews with leaders in the field, especially those ADR professionals practicing in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast states.  They are often neglected when others describe the work of mediators.  

I also plan using the video webinars to support the educational program of the Virginia Mediation Network.  Its Board is planning regional educational opportunities in lieu of its traditional spring conference.  

Master of the Universe

When I bought the webinar platform I am using, I felt so empowered!  I could now teach a variety of topics to anyone, any where, at any time.   This is the future, and students want it.  Yes, we need to ensure excellent course design, but clearly the web-based technologies offer opportunities that do not exist in the typical classroom.   

October 19, 2014 Update:  Resource that might be very helpful as I continue to grow this platform. 
For those who need help with video/ audio production for training, there is a free course on Udemy . . . . Videos are short and to the point.
November 2, 2014 Update:  More on the topic here and here