Recently, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) released a ranking of law schools based on their educational programs in privacy law. Although I applaud the effort to focus more attention on the issue of teaching privacy law in law schools, there are many aspects of the project that I would do differently. In this post, I will discuss the elements of what I believe would constitute a robust privacy law educational program at law schools.
First, a bit of background about IAPP’s rankings. IAPP ranks schools into three tiers. Tier 1 is for schools offering a “certification or formal concentration in privacy law.” Tier 2 is for schools that “offer at least one three-credit course in privacy annually.” Tier 3 is for schools that “have a privacy offering, such as a one-credit seminar” rather than a three-credit offering or that have offered privacy courses but not on a “consistent basis.”
Unfortunately, the data that IAPP has assembled thus far is incomplete and needs quite a number of corrections. For example, many schools listed in Tier 3 have a 3-credit annual offering.
Additionally, I don’t agree with the set of criteria used to rank the schools. Having a certificate doesn’t put a school’s program in the top tier. There are many other factors to consider. Presenting the data in a rankings format is counterproductive because the data needs a lot of correcting plus the criteria are incomplete and not properly weighted. I think a more useful endeavor would be to improve the data, gather data on some other criteria, and just present the data rather than try to rank. IAPP’s project is just a starting point, and I hope that my suggestions here are constructive and will help shape the project.
I strongly recommend teaching information privacy law in law schools. I have authored several textbooks in the field, and I know that this might seem like a self-plug. But I really am a big believer that all law schools should have not just one course on information privacy law, but several — no matter what textbooks are used!
So if you’re an academic interested in exploring issues involving information technology, criminal procedure, or free speech, you should consider adding information privacy law to your course package. If you’re a practitioner, consider teaching an information privacy law course as an adjunct.
I’ve long been unhappy with the typical law school exam format. The entire grade for the class is based on one 3-hour in-class essay exam. The problem with this format is that many students aren’t particularly adept at writing very quickly under immense time pressure. So the exam tests, in part, the ability to write quickly — a skill that is only of limited usefulness in the practice of law. In real life, lawyers don’t write briefs in 3-hour timed sessions. Law firms would be very unhappy if they did — first because the brief probably wouldn’t be that good and second because it would amount to a meager 3 billable hours!
In a post today, Kaimi responds to a fequent student criticism of law school pedagogy. That criticism is that many students don’t learn much from hearing other students speak in class. In large classes (not seminars), many students think that time is wasted when so much class time is devoted to other students talking. They feel that they are taking the class to learn from the professor, not from other students.
There is an interesting discussion raised over at PrawfsBlawg about how law professors should enforce student preparedness in the classroom. Mike Dimino (law, Widener) (guesting at PrawfsBlawg and a former guest blogger here at Concurring Opinions) described a chronically unprepared student and noted the strong punishment he intends to deliver: “[I] plan to call on the lazy student every day for the rest of the semester (or at least a suitably lengthy period short of the whole semester) plus decrease his grade one step for poor class participation, but I suspect such treatment is not nearly severe enough (plus it wastes the time of other members of the class).” In a follow-up post, Mike noted that enforcing preparedness “is a lesson in professionalism, encouraging students who would otherwise slack off to expend the effort necessary to learn.” He argued that “student unpreparedness fosters an attitude of apathy that lowers the expectations of everyone and makes it impossible to teach to the high end of the class.”