Law schools: The President suggests a way to increase the value, relative to cost, of a legal education

It is no secret that law schools across the country are searching for ways to be of greater value in a highly competitive job market. Recently, President Obama suggested one way for law schools to do that: do less. Specifically, as reported by the Economist (August 31 – September 6, 2013 issue – North America edition – at page 24, the President said “This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck.” ..”[L]aw schools would probably be wise to think about two years instead of three.”

There is an old saying about law school.  The first year they scare you to death. The second year they work you to death. And the third year they bore you to death. To the extent there is some truth in that saying the price of the third year is far too high and it should be dropped.

The legal profession, including law schools, is on a forced march to create value and to make clear to clients (and to prospective students) that legal services, including legal education (which must teach more about rendering legal services), are worth the investment. Perhaps the President is on to something when he suggests that law schools create greater value by charging less and and spending less time before granting a degree.  Might the same concept apply to law firms? It is always a challenge to know when enough is enough in terms of time spent on a client matter. Past a certain point clients won’t pay. But before a certain point one can not do a first rate professional job. Law schools need to focus on teaching students how to render legal services efficiently on a cost effective basis. If law school graduates entered the marketplace as engines of efficiency, including using technology effectively, they would be of value to firms that have clients but that may not have cutting-edge knowledge of how to serve their clients most efficiently. The focus must be on creating value for clients. The rest is a waste of time and money.

An unexpected resource for fans of the Supreme Court

Roku 3 is a device that streams programming from the Internet to T.V. Through Roku one can access high quality, free programming such as Democracy Now, Newsy and PBS. Thanks to the Sunlight Foundation one can also listen to many Supreme Court arguments. from the Sunlight Foundation’s Supreme Court website. Listening to Supreme Court arguments may not offer the same level of excitement as a professional sporting event but on the other hand, if one is interested in what goes on during a Supreme Court argument, there is no substitute to listening to the back and forth between members of the Court and counsel. At times it is so intense as the remind one of an athletic event, a cross-fit workout perhaps, with relentless questioning leaving counsel little time to transition from one topic to another. Check it out.  It’s free. And definitely check out Democracy Now and Newsy. I find them to be much better than network and cable news. They cover more real news, report in depth and are not burdened by ads or by heated exchanges between partisans who offer insults but little data.

A “Secret” Constitutional Crisis Over The Power To Declare War?

With all the talk of “scandals” in recent weeks, one very real Constitutional crisis appears to have escaped the attention of the mainstream press. This issue is whether the military already has the authorization it needs to wage war anywhere in the world at any time without Congressional approval.  To see the crisis unfold in real time click here for an exchange broadcast by Democracy Now between Senator Lindsay Graham, top ranking members of the military and the Independent Senator from Maine, Angus, King. King’s major point is that the AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force – see copy re-printed below) is confined to taking action against the those who aided the 9/11 attackers. Senator Graham and the military apparently read the AUMF to mean that Congress authorized the use of force against anyone, anywhere who shares the views of the 9/11 plotters, attackers and enablers regardless of whether they were in anyway involved with 9/11. . Do you think that is a fair reading of the AUMF?

The understand the issue it helpful to bear in mind that Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution provides that “Congress shall have the power:

11.  To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on on land and water.

Apparently the military, with Senator Graham’s strong support, is of the opinion that a document referred to the AUMF passed by Congress shortly after 9/11, has granted the President the power to wage war anywhere in the world at any time without further involvement by the Congress.  Senator King argued forcefully that the AUMF does not grant the power to wage war that top leaders of the military and Senator Graham believe that it does.  What do you think?  With the Memorial Day weekend coming up, if you find yourself in a discussion about the IRS, Benghazi or the AP (and now Fox News) story, you might consider saying to your fellow conversationalists, “Yes, but have you heard of the brewing Constitutional crisis?”  And then go on to explain, as lawyers should do from time to time, the separation of powers under the Constitution, the particularly important power to declare war and the consequences of separating the power to wage war from the democratic process. Below, cut and pasted from Wikipedia, is a copy of the AUMF.

Preamble [edit]

Joint Resolution

To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.

Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and
Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and
Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and
Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and
Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

Section 1 – Short Title [edit]

This joint resolution may be cited as the ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force’.

Section 2 – Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces [edit]

(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-

(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

 

Motion to Dismiss pending in Jacoby & Meyers v. Judges of the Superior Court

Oral argument was held on March 19th. The transcript is Interesting. Jacoby & Meyers is asking Judge Chatigny to declare Rule 5.4 unconstitutional.  For me the argument is symbolic of the clash between commercial pressures on the legal profession and the profession’s determination to maintain its traditional values – especially, the independent professional judgment of lawyers in service to their clients – and to address the issue with step by step, lawyerly precision.  Jacoby & Meyers, perhaps reflecting an urgency it feels to respond to changing circumstances, appears imprecise as to certain “ministerial” details of its own case even though it is seeking an equitable remedy, and impatient for the result it believes is it must have to carry out a business plan it may feel is necessary to its survival – speculation on my part. Judge Chatigny, unfailingly polite, appears focused on process and rules and his role as a federal district court judge.

In my opinion, this case is but one example of the ever-increasing economic pressure on the legal profession. LegalZoom is another. There is no doubt that law has by now long been a business. The question for the future is whether business principles and pressures, especially the pressure to make quarterly profits, will overwhelm the principles that have set law apart from other businesses.  LegalZoom claims to “put the law on your side” and that one an solve many legal issues in a matter of minutes at low cost by using LegalZoom’s form filler. Will LegalZoom, which purports to not practice law and which disclaims responsibility for just about everything, take the place of a great many lawyers?  What, if any, are the risks to clients and society of disconnecting legal services from accountability of the sort described in the Rules of Professional Conduct?