Wednesday, April 15, 2015

University of Arkansas Law Prof. Christopher Kelley touts the remarkable career-building opportunities offered by his two week "Transnational Negotiations" program in Minsk.



(Cultural Learnings of Belarus for Make-Benefit Glorious University of Arkansas Law School students).  
Practicing law, like so much else, is mostly a matter of learn-by-doing. Consequently, legal academia is now placing greater emphasis on experiential education, after only a trifling century-and-then-some delay. In my view, experiential education is, potentially, a small step in the right direction, even though it does not really address the far greater, and intertwined, problems of the mammoth law student debt burden and the cratering of the entry-level legal job market. Law students are paying for professional training, and that is what the JD-peddlers should provide.

But, no, count on legal academics to get experiential education wrong. When they speak of experiential education, they often mean elaborate and pointless simulation games [1], rather than live-client clinics and internships in law offices.

Take, for instance, the art or skill of "negotiation." In our market-oriented system, anybody would benefit by becoming a better negotiator. Now suppose that a law student has two weeks to devote to the task of improving his or her skills as a negotiator. Which of the following options should the student select?

A. Arrange a short-term internship with a successful local attorney who specializes in, say, family or personal injury law and observe the attorney as he or she assesses people and situations and determines what concessions to make, what points to insist upon, what deals to offer, and how to frame his or her proposals as being in the best interest of the other party or parties. 
                                                                   or
B. Fly to Kiev or Minsk with a law professor at a cost of thousands of borrowed dollars, pay for housing, attend intensive all-day classes in which the professor yaps about "cross-cultural negotiation skills in an international setting," and then breaks the students into "negotiation teams" and has them role-play international business deals with Byelorussian or Ukrainian students, some of whom, unfortunately, do not speak English very well. [2]
I shouldn't imply that the choice is so clear because option B has its supporters, such as Professor Christopher Kelley of the University of Arkansas School of Law. Prof. Kelley runs a two-week long two credit hour course in Transnational Negotiation that includes a week in Minsk or Kiev. The course is held during Spring and Fall Break because, as Professor Kelley shrewdly notes, lengthy summer abroad programs tend to be "less popular," what with the law students' need to work summer jobs, presumably not available in Belarus or the Ukraine.

Professor Kelley feels so strongly about the pedagogical benefits of his approach that he spoke at a workshop on "Globalization Across the Law School Curriculum," at the big 2012 annual SEALS (Southeastern Association of Law Schools) shindig at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida to share his groundbreaking ideas about "ways to integrate globalization issues and instill cultural competencies and values in courses throughout the law school curriculum." [3]

Law schools should, indeed, offer courses in international law. But a two week role-playing course in negotiation half way around the world during spring break? What the hell is that? [4] The professor gets paid, gets an appealingly exotic line on his CV, gets to make or maintain career-enhancing contacts abroad, and gets invitations to Amelia Island to yap about his innovative pedagogy. And the students get the bill.

It must be admitted that, at least from the law school’s press release, the law students seem to enjoy the program. Students who participated in the program in 2013 were quoted as follows:
*  "I firmly believe that there is a need for lawyers in all areas of the world . . .Everyone has the same human desires and if you can help them achieve those, then your services will always be in demand."
*  "My favorite part of the trip was the exchange with the Belarusian students both in class during negotiations and after class when they took us to some of their favorite local joints."
*  "I’ve always been interested in the international aspects of business and law and somebody I hope to live and work abroad. . . Being in Belarus has enhanced my desire to work in international law."   
*  "I lived in Australia for two years as a missionary for my church, and I was interested in international law before this trip. . . .I’m definitely still interested in a career in international law after going to Belarus. Belarus was amazing!" 
*   "The practical exercises that we engaged in with the students from Belarus taught me not only a lot about myself as an individual and American, but also a lot about others. . . One student said it all, “we are all people.” I think this theme sums it all up."


Yes, we are all people, an excellent lesson to absorb in nursery school.  The dispiriting qualification that the kids will learn as they mature is that some people are scammers. For instance, law professors who reach deep into your pocket to pay for their travels abroad or their academic "conferences" in resort locales. [5] 

My question is this: Will these kids feel as positively about their pricey Byelorussian adventure a year or two down the road when they are fledgling lawyers trying to find jobs in a flooded profession? Will they recall with gratitude the negotiation skills acquired or enhanced in Belarus? Or will they recall their study abroad course as a little scam within the larger scam of law school?

_____________________________________________________
notes and additional links.

[1]  See e.g., http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2013/06/lets-play-pretend-washington-and-lee.html

I except mock trials from my general skepticism of simulations or practicums because there it is possible to fashion a simulation that is a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.

[2] A student's comment, from the linked article: "All of the students in the course spoke English but some were better at it than others. . .[s]o not only were we working on negotiations, we also helped the students who weren’t so strong in English understand what the issue(s) were and in a sense taught helped [sic] them with their English skills."

(scroll down to p. 10)

See also Tamanaha, Brian Z. (2012-06-18). Failing Law Schools (Chicago Series in Law and Society) (Kindle Locations 3670-3673). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition. ("The Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) is known to select attractive family venues for its annual gathering, holding conferences in 2010 at Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida, in 2011 at Hilton Head Marriott, South Carolina, in 2012 at the Ritz Carlton-Amelia Island, Florida, in 2013 at Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida").

[4] Note the disgraceful hype in Kelley's come-on to his students in which he yaps about the "remarkable opportunity for you to be a pioneer" the "valuable educational and career-building opportunities" and the "extraordinary, unprecedented opportunity": 
"I invite you to consider being part of a Transnational Negotiations course this spring in which you will negotiate with Belarusian State University Law Faculty students in Minsk, Belarus, during our spring break. To my knowledge, no American law students have ever entered the Belarusian State University Law Faculty for a class with BSU students.  So this is a remarkable opportunity for you to be a pioneer. You will be the first American law students to develop your skills with BSU [Belarusian State University] law students in a BSU classroom. . . . You will be responsible for your expenses for the Minsk trip. . . .You will have alternatives–other spring-break courses are being discussed. They, too, will offer valuable educational and career-building opportunities. . . .I am eager to talk with you about your interest in this extraordinary, unprecedented opportunity." 
[5]  Do law professors believe-- not just say, but actually believe-- that legal education is enhanced by their conferences and courses in the Breakers, Amelia Island, aboard an tropical island-hopping cruise ship, in Minsk, Kiev, the French Riviera (hello, Thomas Jefferson School of Law), or many, many other beautiful locales of their wanderlusting hearts' desire? Brian Tamanaha demonstrated how to dissolve such pretensions with a laser flash of wit
"I did chuckle, though, reading your statement that law profs have set up a panel at "The Breakers, in Palm Beach" to discuss "the challenging environment for law schools."

48 comments:

  1. How many law students in the US who want to go into "international law" have the ability to negotiate anything, even an order for a cup of coffee, in any language other than English (never mind Byelorussian or Ukrainian specifically)? Doesn't it seem that people pursuing "international law" should know a bit about the world? about other people?

    Adults who have to go on a scam-trip to Byelarus or the Ukraine just to learn that "we are all people" plainly are not prepared to become specialists in anything of international scope. I doubt whether they have the maturity to drive a car.

    Years ago I found myself sitting in a dumb meeting about one of these scam-trips. I asked the point of sending a lot of students from the US to a French-speaking European civil-law jurisdiction in order to study US common law in English under professors who also were from the US. Couldn't that course, whatever its merits, be run at least as effectively in Topeka? I did not get a sensible answer.

    Old Guy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. France = sexy.

      Topeka = not sexy.

      That's all you need to know.

      Delete
    2. On took International Law because I had Income Tax the same semester and first thing in the morning, so I wanted something easy and pointless to round out my 15 credit hours.

      Got an A. Got a B+ in Tax, not that I need either in my $14/hr non-Law job.

      Delete
    3. International law has to be one of the scammiest academic courses other than basket weaving.

      What is there to learn? That without submitting to international sovereignty, international enforceability is uncertain? Good job, idiots. International law does not to be a course. It should be a 1-credit research class. I'm ashamed to live in a country that has law students stupid enough to take an international law course.

      At least the scammy sounding "aviation law" or "agricultural law" courses would be novel. International law is decidedly not.

      Scam schools need to eliminate this garbage AND all of the academic swine feeding from the international law trough. Eliminating these overpaid swine is an obvious step to correcting the law school bubble.

      Delete
  2. In my experience, it was common knowledge that these "study abroad" programs are in reality vacations with a thin veneer of education, hence why they are usually in Western Europe, Australia, etc. Why anyone would want to do one in the former Soviet Union is beyond my comprehension.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because it's more exotic than Australia or Germany. How many people in Arkansas have even heard of Belarus?

      Old Guy

      Delete
    2. When I was in law school there was a "study abroad" program in Germany every summer. It was just widely accepted that it was a chance to have fun and everyone sampled as many different kinds of German beer and bratwurst as they could. I never went because I was trying to minimize my student loan debt. The students who did go were paying both for their ticket and the professors'.

      Delete
    3. Imagining The Open ToadApril 17, 2015 at 3:09 PM

      BamBam, from this and others of your comments, I think we must have gone to the same school and possibly at the same time. Did the prof who used to push the summer Germany study favor wearing a bow tie, and share his surname with a local large body of water?

      Delete
    4. Yup, you've got it.

      I'm not bitter, as it was quite affordable esp back then and Ive worked steadily as a lawyer ever since. I comment on these blogs because the law school industry as a whole is a mess. Love your name by the way!

      Delete
    5. Also to construct their new building they demolished the building that used to house a totally awesome club where I partied wildly in the 90s. Maybe you recall that? Too bad to see it consigned to the sands of time.

      Delete
    6. Imagining The Open ToadApril 19, 2015 at 3:04 PM

      Thanks BamBam. I'm in the same boat - no personal bitterness but I can't believe what's been happening in legal education. I try to spread correct info where I can and whenever someone comes to me with a "Hey, Junior's thinking about LS story".

      I've managed to do okay as a lawyer but, IIRC, tuition and fees then were on the order of $4K a year and I just paid out-of-pocket from my day job. So if things hadn't worked out in the legal world, I would have been sadder-but-wiser and just a bit lighter in the wallet. But certainly not wrecked financially like the kids (and non-trads) who have been sucked into it in the last X years. Even our (relatively) modestly-priced school is over 4X what it was then... And for what, seriously?

      I'm not sure about that party spot. I pretty much just ran from work to school and back home to the kids after class, so was kind of clueless about the local hotspots. I had heard that they'd spent a big chunk of change on new facilities, but I haven't been back since graduation. (Not that I attended graduation, either.)

      Delete
    7. ITOT--yep, I also went part time in the evening and paid most costs out of pocket, as I was working during the day. Financially it did make sense at the time.

      The party spot was early 90's, before I went to law school--during law school of course there was little time for anything besides school and work.

      Delete
  3. Arkansas Law grads don't get to practice "international law." If you make law review there, you may be able to land a PD gig where the only negotiating you do involves plea deals for your meth-monkey clients.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm amazed that anything "international" in law is still an attractive hook for scam victims. Do they really - like, REALLY - think that graduating with that class on the transcript will make top "international" law firms go damp in the panties? The fact that they've actually gone to another country? Oh my, HOW EXOTIC!!!!! We MUST HIRE THIS PERSON NOW!!!!! THEY HAVE A PASSPORT!!!!!

    Retards. You get to practice "international" law by (1) going to Harvard or Yale, (2) getting VERY lucky and finding a job in the federal government or a major NY/DC law firm, and (3) surviving.

    Then you might get to talk to a lawyer in another country once every year or so. And you'll practice US law because you're not licensed to practice anywhere else. Nobody is jetting off around the world solving "international law" problems.

    International law, environmental law, entertainment/music/sports law, the trifecta of baited hooks ready to lure in the dumbest of the victims.

    Actually, from most law schools, practicing anything other than "just scraping by and hating myself" law is a long shot.

    Nice takedown, dybbuk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "International law, environmental law, entertainment/music/sports law, the trifecta of baited hooks ready to lure in the dumbest of the victims."

      So true, and it infuriates me. Who doesn't want to do some sexy, jet-set job? Few people I knew had an honest, devoted interest in, say, the local PDs office or whatever. So many people had visions of sugarplums back in 2002 when I started, let alone now. Reality is something else entirely.

      ScamDeans and LawProfs should be above such rank dishonesty. But who am I kidding?

      Delete
    2. Indeed. As I've said before, not a single law skule offers a program in document review, insurance claims, traffic tickets, divorces, wills, or other garden-variety legal work. But every Cooley from Bangor to San Diego trumpets its supposed specialties in "environmental law", "international law", "sports law", "entertainment law", "aerospace law", "animal rights", and other fictitious domains. Why? Because lemmings see themselves doing flashy stuff involving celebrities, VIPs, travel, status, and of course piles of money. The number of lemmings that take an abiding interest in low-paying document review or small-time divorce can be counted on the fingers of a half-amputated hand.

      Old Guy

      Delete
    3. Here's how my "international law" career went:

      1. Get 9th Circuit clerkship
      2. Biglaw
      3. Marry European national and move to his country
      4. Stumble upon, completely by chance, a law professor who needed English-speaking instructors in his program.
      5. Teach on Erasmus exchanges as often as possible.

      Sounds like fun, no? Well, it is fun--if you can live on the 500 euros a month they pay me. I have four jobs.

      Delete
  5. Better yet, progressive Belarus is about to criminalize unemployment, following in the traditions of the Soviet Union (where being unemployed was defined as "social parasitism").

    Imagine how much better the employment numbers of law schools would look if they could simply have their unemployed graduates arrested!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In Belarus, like USSR, employment is guaranteed in the consitution, along with encompassing social services, the government owning most of the industries for the public good, organically regulating it as a whole. So yeah, being unemployed in Belarus is a sign of not wanting to work as opposed to the USA, where being fired is a private matter of your employer, and you and the other vast unemployed will never find work again in the context of no social services beyond food stamps.

      Delete
  6. This course should be offered at an International House of Pancakes...a future employer.

    ReplyDelete
  7. To summarize, thousands in federally subsidized loans are paying for 20somethings to fly to Eastern Europe for a few days to pretend they are peacemakers. One, these kids are paying tons of money for this utterly useless exercise. Two, the Federal government is subsidizing them as they bury themselves deeply into debt in exchange for nothing.

    How utterly heartless the U of Arkansas Law School must be to lead their students crush themselves in debt for the ridiculousness of pretending they are training their students to be peace negotiators.

    Why dont students dress up and do this on the weekend, like other hobbyists?

    Why don't the professors encourage intensive, years-long study, involving foreign languages - what it actually takes to understand foreign law. At least this would actually result in something being learned, even though the market for such skills is not really that large - which they should warn students of too.

    Its just so sad that professors are this heartless, the Federal government this blind, and the students this naive. This egregious mini-scam microcosm of the law school scam is a colorful disgrace in the history of legal education.

    ReplyDelete
  8. As someone who almost fell for the "international law" sub-scam, I can attest to the fact that this pseudo-specialization exerts a powerful allure on law school lemmings. But even otherwise-intelligent people can be deluded into thinking that this is a vialble area of practice for them. They envision themselves being sent by the State Department to geopolitical hot-spots, to negotiate treaties that will end decades-long conflicts, before flying back to D.C. for a congratulatory cocktail with the president in the Oval Office. The idea of students from the University of Arkansas traveling to Belarus to study "Transnational Negotiations" would be hilarious if the financial repercussions for the students weren't so serious. These kind of "study abroad" programs in law schools are mostly about marketing, and enabling the schools to say they offer international programs. But this nonsense is totally divorced from the reality of legal practice for 99.9% of practicing American lawyers (to say nothing of the vast numbers of J.D.-holders who can't find legal work, despite having experiences like this self-indulgent Belarus excursion on their resumes).

    ReplyDelete
  9. "I invite you to consider...a remarkable opportunity for you to...be responsible for your expenses for the Minsk trip. You will be the first American law students to...be responsible for...interest [o]n this extraordinary, unprecedented opportunity."

    The principals of law schools exhibit extraordinary, unprecedented immorality. This is a remarkable opportunity to be the first American law students to demand that those who cannot be entrusted with public money or the public good be cut off permanently.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Kiev? Minsk? Do the cyphers get Kalashnikovs, or do they all have to share one?

    Of course there are alternative, valuable academic and career-building opportunities available from the University of Alabama law for spring break: a one credit course in beach volleyball in Aden; a pass-fail, one credit course in hostage negotiations in Ramadi; or, stay home and participate in a mock UN counsel meeting with the elite students of the University Place Middle School.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Kiev? Minsk? Do the cyphers get Kalashnikovs, or do they all have to share one?"

      OTOH, both Kiev and Minsk have first-rate strip clubs... or so I've been told.

      Delete
    2. :) That may be his angle...

      Delete
  11. From "professor" Chris Kelley's bio:

    "He was a delegate on the Section’s International Legal Exchange (ILEX) briefing trips to Poland, Jordan, Lebanon, Australia, and New Zealand. He participated in the World Justice Project’s World Justice Forums I and II in Vienna and the World justice Forum IV in The Hague."

    and

    "When he is not teaching, Professor Kelley is on airplanes. He flies up to 180,000 miles per year on Delta Air Lines and other SkyTeam Alliance airlines."

    (Yup, that last one is in his bio.)

    So Kelley, it seems, is in this "teaching" game for the free travel. Australia, New Zealand, etc. All in the name of "legal education."

    Fuck you, "professor," for your student loan sponsored vacations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "He flies up to 180,000 miles per year on Delta Air Lines and other SkyTeam Alliance airlines."

      Basically, money that students borrow from taxpayers for the purpose of "education" is paying for this guy's diamond medallion status and complimentary upgrades. The only person actually getting the jet-setting lifestyle out of this set-up is the professor.

      He's a lot like a motivational speaker who hosts seminars about how to get rich. The only person who ends up getting rich is the motivational speaker.

      Delete
    2. When he is not teaching? I want to know when exactly he is teaching. With all that travel, he cannot be teaching very much of the time.

      Yet another god-damned moocher feeding on the law-skule scam.

      Old Guy

      Delete
  12. I just revisited my former Toilet's website. (This is a distasteful task at the best of times.)

    I see they are still actively promoting studying abroad, as though that would ever in 1000 lifetimes lead to any kind of meaningful employment opportunity. The "International Law" scam really suckers in Lemmings. Not sure if it's worse than the "Entertainment law" scam, where you dream of rubbing elbows with Kanye West and Puff Daddy.

    It's honestly hard to have any sympathy for Lemmings these days. If you're applying to any law school outside the top 10, you must be a cretin.

    True story: A 2014 graduate reached out to me for a job last year. He wanted a job as a prosecutor. He did all the right things in law school like intern at the DA's office, take lots of trial advocacy and evidence classes, etc.
    He realized too late that these jobs generally go to 1% of the people that apply to them or the politically connected. He was neither, and spent 11 months totally unemployed after school.

    He has been reduced to working at a bankruptcy mill. Does anyone have any insight what it's like working at one of these places? What are the pay and prospects like? The only time I saw attorneys from these places was in the Federal building in Chicago, when I was appearing for my client at a Trustee meeting. The bankruptcy attorneys all looked cheap, desperate, hurried and angry. Their clients all looked pretty dim, and there was a lot of shouting from the attorneys.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Does this program still exist? Ukraine is a mess, and Russia is in the midst of a financial crisis. (Belarus is for all intents and purposes part of Russia, so it can't be good there either.) If you're going to waste a large chunk of money, at least go somewhere fun (and safe).

    ReplyDelete
  14. I believe the last American to be so enthusiastic about Belarus was Lee Harvey Oswald.

    I would guess they'd have to use the equivalent of Belarusian Monopoly money in their negotiation role playing because there is no effective negotiation over there unless money changes hands.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The Smartest People Are Opting Out of Law School:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-15/the-smartest-people-are-opting-out-of-law-school

    ReplyDelete
  16. Belarus has a wonderful red light district and is home to some of the most beautiful prostitutes in the world. It makes me wonder why the professor selected this venue out of more suitable countries for this type of "study abroad program."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From the US State Department travel advisory for Belarus:

      "Visiting night clubs, you should pay particular attention to your surroundings and drinks; the drugging of drinks is not uncommon. Prostitutes at hotels may attempt to open hotel room doors in search of customers. Local and transnational organized criminal activity exists in Belarus. Most casinos and adult clubs are operated by criminal elements, but street-level organized criminal violence is rare and does not generally affect foreigners."

      Delete
  17. Shocking stupidity, even for a law professor.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Christopher Kelley: JD Howard, LLM Arkansas.

    A pioneer for social justice and a true giant of the legal profession.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Christopher Kelley paved the way--indeed, the open road--for Andre Douglas Pond Cummings, the greatest white Howard alumnus of all.

      Delete
  19. And in other exciting law school news:

    "Professor Patrick Connors will be a visiting Scholar in Residence at Touro Law Center..."

    according to The Faculty Lounge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That one actually is news. Connors actually writes about New York law and teaches practical classes (New York Practice; Legal Responsibility). It's a big loss for Albany.

      Delete
  20. Suppose that you were ass enough to believe that you could work in "international law". Would you do your studies in Arkansas, a state with not a single flight to any other country? Might there not be a more suitable school than the University of Arkansas 'n' All-U-Can-Eat Chitt'lin's Buffet?

    Old Guy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the professors at Arkansas-Fayetteville have an unearned sense of superiority. Why? Because they can always compare themselves to Arkansas-Little Rock, which is even worse academically. Also, having two public law schools in such a small state ruins the employment figures for both schools, so the professors at Fayetteville realize that any efforts to teach basic skills won't be enough to help their graduates find jobs.

      It's much more fun and dramatic for Kelley to play international diplomat than to lobby the Arkansas legislature to merge the law schools, which is he would be doing if he had a conscience.

      Delete
    2. Belarus is the Arkansas of Europe.

      Delete
    3. As someone who visits arkansas regularly for fishing, I can tell you that it is very thinly populated and very backwards. Many of the counties have nothing but single lane roads and many counties are completely dry. If you go to the northern half of the state you may as well be in rural Botswana. There is very little infrastructure and public support of any kind. God help you if you break down on any road that's not an interstate. You have to be very self-sufficient to survive there and it's extremely right-wing. There is still very strong racial segregation there and it ranks near the bottom in many QOL indicators. Rural mississippi and parts of rural Pakistan are the only other place I've been that compares. It's essentially the Wild West with a healthy dose of meth labs, inbred rednecks and guns.

      Delete
  21. Excellent research as usual, Dybbuk. It looks as if Professor Kelley has written a
    "play" about international business that he expects his students to perform. But surely we need to consider whether that's a violation of legal ethics on his part. Any ethnic or national stereotypes in that "play," perhaps?

    ReplyDelete
  22. But what about practice-ready professionals for the 21st century? Aren't we forgetting transnational constitution-building in an era of challenges to the post-Westphalian order? Are you even aware of internormative pluralism in the shadow of hegemonic reificiations of human rights abuses? $250,000 JDs are necessary for dynamic global legal leadership training in Little Rock, Arkansas because of rising tuition. Meanwhile underpaid law professors halt genocides through 180,000 Delta Sky Miles per year. PER YEAR! Are you against halting genocides?

    In conclusion, the globalizing world in which judicial review increases while law & film.

    ReplyDelete
  23. coming soon:

    http://www.spacemoot.org/mootproblem.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Imagining The Open ToadApril 17, 2015 at 3:18 PM

      OMFG, I almost didn't click the link because I figured it was just a spoof ... it's REAL.

      Delete