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This blog provides a space for conversations about articles and ideas found in AALL Spectrum, the monthly magazine of the American Association of Law Libraries. The previous blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
4/15/2014 10:05:38 AM

Book Review: What the Best Law Teachers Do

Michael Hunter Schwartz, Gerald F. Hess, and Sophie M. Sparrow, What the Best Law Teachers Do. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). 355 pages. ISBN: 9780674049147. $29.95 (Hardcover).

In What the Best Law Teachers Do, Michael Hunter Schwartz, Gerald F. Hess, and Sophie M. Sparrow present a perspective that has been lacking recently in the legal world, one that is focused more on positive than negative.  Instead of discussing the topical issue of how legal education calls for change, they write about the methods used by twenty six of the top professors that are getting it right; that are teaching in a way that is widely recognized by students, colleagues, and other legal professionals, as exceptional.  The authors document the success of these professors throughout the book by including personal interview narratives from the professors themselves as well as reflections from their students on the classroom setting.

“But who claims that these are the best professors?  And, how are those claims verified,” an inquisitive reader may ask.   Schwartz, Hess, and Sparrow are quick to lay that qualm to rest.  They open the book with a detailed map of the phases they went through to gather and analyze the information that serves as their basis.  In 2008, they began seeking nominations for professors that were considered “the best” by law students, alumni, professors, and deans.  The second phase of their research called for selecting their subjects from the nominations, followed by the third, which they conducted in depth interviews of the professors and critically examined their credentials and teaching methodologies.  This data gathering phase also included onsite visits to witness firsthand the instructional prowess of the professors.  The fourth phase required the authors to analyze their findings and led to the final phase where they organized the findings and conclusions and produced their written manuscript.

This diligence is well reflected in the book.  Schwartz, Hess, and Sparrow break down their work in ten rich chapters.  Chapter 1 includes the introduction, presents the roadmap for the book, and gives details outlined above delving deeper into methodology of the authors and giving background on the twenty six professors highlighted.  Chapter 2 includes the results from another study conducted of the individuals that nominated the “best” professors, which requested that the nominators define their criteria for “extraordinary learning.”  This provides the reader with much needed context to assess the standards of the law professors’ methodologies.   

Chapters 3 to 9 include large portions of narrative text, transcribed from interviews with the “best” professors and the students they taught.  These chapters covered topics from what the professors actually do in their classrooms to the expectations the professors have for their students, and equally important, for themselves.  They also discuss topics such as the nature of the relationships between the professors and the students and how the professors prepared for class.  I found these portions of the text to be particularly useful, as a new librarian who just completed her first semester of teaching legal research.  Finally, in Chapter 10 the authors conclude and give suggestions of practical applications for law schools and individuals to implement in their programming and courses.  For example, Schwartz, Hess, and Sparrow suggest creating a visiting-teaching-excellence program where schools invite professors that are widely acknowledged for their skill in teaching to come to a law school, observe the teaching there, and suggest possible improvements.   

The book documents the best practices followed by the best professors.  It is an excellent guide for someone that is just beginning to teach and is looking to build a good foundation.  The book also has high utility for seasoned professors in search of ways to improve their teaching.  There is always room for some change and perhaps reading about the methods used by others will inspire all law teachers to try their best.  The final take away point, which I found to be the most compelling, is that the authors continually presented the perspective of students.  It is most important to cater to the audience.  Listening to the students and soliciting their thoughts about their experience is key for a “best” professor.  Professors teach students, students learn from professors, the best professors learn from students. 

Anupama Pal is the Reference and Government Documents Librarian at Elon University School of Law.

Posted By Anupama Pal at 4/15/2014 10:05:38 AM  0 Comments
4/7/2014 11:56:42 AM

New Technical Services Law Librarian Issue Available

The March 2014 edition of Technical Services Law Librarian is now available and it is packed full of information and updates.  Lia Contursi explains the new KIA-KIX classification.  Anne Myers, the new Acquisitions Columnist, discusses issues to consider when purchasing electronic resources.  Robert Bratton discusses the RDA update regarding treaties.  And, Maxine Wright provides some insight on forming a preservation plan in your library.  There is also reprint of an interview with Joe Janes about his book Library 2020: Today’s Leading Visionaries Describe Tomorrow’s Library.  And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg!      

Posted By Kristen Moore at 4/7/2014 11:56:42 AM  2 Comments
4/6/2014 6:18:03 PM

Book Review. The Governance and Regulation of International Finance.

Miller, Geoffrey P. & Cafaggi, Fabrizio. The Governance and Regulation of International Finance. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2013. 211p. ISBN: 978-0857939470 (hardcover) £63 (publisher's price) $104.50 (Amazon price) Also available electronically in the ElgarOnline.com Law Subject Collection. E-ISBN: 978-0857939487.

                In The Governance and Regulation of International Finance, Miller and Cafaggi assess the tradeoffs involved in systems of public regulation (rules set by government and enforced by state action) and private regulation (rules written by industry and enforced by private actors), and various mixes of the two, in the financial arena. Their analysis takes the 2008-09 financial crisis into account.

                The book is one of four in publisher Edward Elgar's Private Regulation series (link last accessed April 6, 2014). The other books in the series cover private regulation of advertising and food safety; private regulation of corporations and securities; and mechanisms of enforcement of private regulation.

                The book contains six chapters, averaging 28 pages of text and 3.5 pages of references each. The chapters are well-summarized in the introduction and have outline-style headings that allow effective skimming. The chapter topics are well-chosen in that there is little overlap between them; however, they are more like selected journal articles rather than an integrated or comprehensive overview of the field of international finance regulation.

                Chapter 1 focuses on three types of private regulation in the United States (management-based regulation, private standard-setting bodies, and private litigation) as they affect financial firms with cross-border operations. Chapter 2 discusses the regulation of credit default swaps before and after 2008, especially the changing role of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA). Chapter 3 analyzes regulatory schemes affecting microfinance institutions. Chapter 4 discusses global payment systems, comparing and contrasting the International Payments Framework (IPF) and Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). Chapter 5 concerns the International Accounting Standards Board's (IASB's) legitimacy and accountability. Chapter 6 deals with the interplay between the public and private components of banking regulation affecting regulatory capital, specifically relating to the Internal Ratings Based Approach (IRB) to credit risk and the Advanced Measurement Approach (AMA) to operational risk under the Basel regime.

                The text of each chapter generally offers a brief overview of how current regulatory systems came about, high-level analysis of how well they are working, and a short list of areas for improvement. Only chapters 3 and 4 contain more than a passing mention of specific countries or regions outside the United States and European Union. There are a few paragraphs about microfinance in India and South Africa, and about accounting standards in Brazil.

                Citations to other scholarly analyses are adequate to support the authors' academic discussions of broad policy goals. There are few quantitative tables and not many references to primary sources of law. There is no glossary and little detail in the text about how financial systems work in practice; some familiarity with international finance is presumed.

                The index is not very thorough. For example, the roles of Chief Compliance Officer and Chief Risk Officer are discussed in depth on pages 15-17. Neither term appears in the index. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is mentioned several times in the text (for example on pages 23, 25, 158, 160, 194, and 205), but does not appear in the index.

Recommended for:

  • academic law libraries, if faculty research interests include international finance
  • special libraries supporting government entities or financial industry stakeholders involved in setting regulatory policy
Reviewed by: Eve Ross, 2014. Master of Library and Information Science candidate, University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science, Columbia, South Carolina. rossea@email.sc.edu

Posted By Eve Ross at 4/6/2014 6:18:03 PM  0 Comments