July 16, 2005
I hereby offer a $5.00 gift certificate, redeemable at the Roger Williams University School of Law Bookstore, to the Academic Support professional who is able to convince the Princeton Review folks to change their web presentation.
Do you design all or part of your school's Orientation program? Are you a participant in that program? Are the following quotes from the Princeton Review page offensive to you?
Schools will invariably announce that attending orientation is mandatory even though - just between us - it isn't.
Law school orientation is basically a day camp ...
You will sit through speeches, panel discussions, and more speeches. ... You'll almost certainly receive instruction on how to read and brief cases and survive law school generally.
In the evenings during orientation, you'll be encouraged to attend social activities like "Jazz in the Park" and "Dinner with the Faculty." Student bar associations often organize less formal alternative events that you can attend as well such as the always popular "Booze Cruise" and "Pub Crawl."
I don't know about you, but I find this offensive.
At our school, Orientation is mandatory. We cover essential material, especially in the Legal Methods (writing) classes. (Attendance is taken.)
Comparing the first days at law school to a children's "day camp" rather misses the point of the transition from college to the professional environment, doesn't it?
Years ago, Orientations featured endlesss speeches. Now, aren't most Orientations mainly interactive? The two "speeches" we feature during the week are anything but "endless." Brevity is the watchword. Our "panels" are designed to be discussions, not mini-lectures.
Do you instruct students about how to "survive law school?" Don't we all instruct them on how to excel in law school? (That's why so many of our programs are entitled Academic Success, Academic Excellence, etc., right?) Survival? Ick.
Let me know where to send the gift certificate! (djt)
Looking for used bar exam questions? Here are a few ... including sample answers! Some of these may be useful for displaying to current students who are still trying to figure out what a good answer reads like.
Arkansas: The Arkansas Board has provided "top" answers. The disclaimer suggests that you ought to tinker with the answers before presenting them to students as models: "… many papers may have significant deficiencies in style, draftsmanship and organization. Indeed, some may fail to recognize issues and may have reached erroneous legal conclusions. ... These papers are not perfect papers but are examples of the better papers. They should be used merely as one of many guidelines in preparing for the examination."
Maryland: The Maryland Board presents similar advice. The "Representative Good Answers" included after each question are neither average passing answers nor are they necessarily answers which received a perfect score; they are responses which, in the Board’s view, illustrate successful answers. Maryland includes the State Board's "analysis." This consists of a discussion of the principal legal and factual issues raised by a question. The Board explains that its analysis is neither a model answer, nor does it include an exhaustive listing of all possible legal issues suggested by the facts of the question.
Minnesota: Interestingly, Minnesota's site does not include a similar disclaimer. The Board has posted questions and "representative good answers."
About disclaimers: I intend to adopt all the disclaimers I can find when presenting students with a list of issues or a sample answer. For a sample of an all-inclusive disclaimer, with tongue firmly pressing against the inside of the cheek, visit . (djt)
July 15, 2005
The Numbers Are In!
Curious about the numbers for the 2004 bar passage rates nationally? The May issue of The Bar Examiner contains a detailed report of the results in each jurisdiction in the country.
Results are broken down between February and July takers and first-time and second-time takers, among other details. You might want to check it out, if you're not already a subscriber to this National Conference of Bar Examiner publication. (els)
Unhappy Lawyers? Not so!
Guess what ... We're happy again!
We're all aware that unhappy law students morph into unhappy lawyers; so just where did this latest group of California lawyers come from?
Contrary to everything I've read in the past decade, the July issue of California Lawyer, reports that California lawyers are choc-fulla' glee as they head for the office each day.
Based on a 2004 poll taken by the magazine's editors, "Fully 57 percent of responding lawyers said they're extremely or very satisfied with their jobs. Another 29 percent said they are somewhhat satisfied, which makes a whopping 86 percent who are content with what they do for a living."
Not only that, the pollsters conclude, "What's more, 30 percent are more content at work today than they were a year ago. California lawyers do indeed seem to be a happy group."
The conclusions in the article seem remarkable to me. Why?
The questionnaire was sent to "a representative sample of 700 California lawyers," and the poll achieved "a 17 percent response rate." Do the math. 119 lawyers responded. That means, that of California's 201,626 lawyers (as of July 16, 2005), 102 reported being content.
Does the number of respondents seem small?
A 1994 issue of the California State Bar Journal (the official publication of the California State Bar) included an article entitled, "Pessimism for the future: Given a second chance, half of the state's attorneys would not become lawyers." The conclusions in that article are based on 2,700 responses (from a significantly smaller base number of attorneys at the time).
According to former litigator (now career consultant) Holly Huart: "More than half of the lawyers who responded to a 1992 California Lawyer fax poll rated themselves 'unhappy but inert' or so unhappy they would change careers; 70% said they would start a new career if they could. Similarly, a poll taken by California Lawyer magazine in 1993 found that over 70% of the respondents said they would not go into law again if they could begin their careers anew, and this was reinforced by a study published in the California Bar Journal in 1995." (See: Huart article, with sources)
(Disclaimer: I am a member of the California Bar. I am neither "unhappy" nor "inert" (does that mean I'm happy and "ert"?)... but then I live in Rhode Island and work at a law school. Also, I was not one of the 119 lawyers responding to the survey questions.) (djt)
July 14, 2005
Damage from the Fall Out?
Here's a quirky little item I ran across that was recently published by The New York Law Journal in a column entitled, "Advice to the Lawlorn," by Ann Isreal.
Scenario: Law grad accepts offer at Boston law firm, fails bar twice and is let go pursuant to firm policy, despite the fact that grad was extremely well liked. She moves to New York and the subject of why she left Boston arises, not, unfortunately, at the outset of the interview, but rather, in a way that leaves the question of what else she might be concealing.....
Employment consultant Ann Isreal gives some key advice worth reading, or, for me, worth filing away for the next time a student asks for some insight on how to tell an employer he or she previously failed a bar. (els)
Are you looking for a model for initiating students to exam-taking skills?
Check out this PowerPoint slide show created by Ruta Stropus when she was Assistand Dean of Educational Service and Director of the Academic Support Program at DePaul University College of Law, adapted by Northwestern University School of Law's Associate Dean and Dean of Students Clifford Zimmerman. (djt)
July 13, 2005
Postpone a Profession?
Today's New York Times reports about the author of a new book who asserts that students should take time to do what they love, to see the world and to experiment before they head off into a professional career path. In Psst, New Grad. Put the Career Off the NYT summarizes a recent book by Colleen Kinder. The 20-something's premise: find adventure in your 20s. Her book and website offer tips to make that happen.
I wonder if I'll have a student read the book during the first week of law school and then decide to postpone the graduate program, which may, in the long term, be a very good decision. The article is an interesting and quick read. We'll be highlighting, from time to time, information that tries to reveal what the "kids today," are thinking. (els)
Bankruptcy and the Bar: Part Two
Bankruptcy as it Affects Character and Fitness
As Bar admission time approaches, our students' questions of character and fitness become more urgent. Here's more on Bankruptcy . . .
In a 2003 Article in the Bar Examiner, Judge Niles Jackson, a judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, explains: "The fact of merely filing a bankruptcy petition, or the refusal to reinstate obligations discharged in bankruptcy cannot be a basis for denial of admission to the bar. Such coercion contravenes the Bankrupcty Act's objective of giving debtors a 'new opportunity in life and a clear field for future effort, unhampered by the pressure and discouragement of pre-existing debt.'" Perez v. Campbell 402 U.S. 637, 647 (1971)
However, fiscal irresponsibility, fraud, and other circumstances relating to the incurring of debt and the filing of the petition may disqualify an applicant from admission.
Candor and rehabilitation seem to be the guiding factors. As an example, Judge Jackson cites an Oregon case allowing admission to an applicant who had failed to pay income taxes. The facts that he filed returns, admitted responsibility for the taxes due, and began making payments were persuasive. (djt)