Friday, July 24, 2015

Professors: Take a Survey of Your Use of Popular Culture in Teaching

Cynthia Bond, a professor at John Marshall Law School, is surveying law professors on their use of popular culture in teaching. Here's Professor Bond's call for participants:

Greetings Law Teacher Colleagues:

I am working on an article this summer on uses of popular culture in the law school classroom.  I am defining popular culture broadly to include mass culture texts like movies, TV shows, popular music, images which circulate on the internet, etc, and also any current events that you may reference in the classroom which are not purely legal in nature (i.e. not simply a recent court decision).

To support this article, I am doing a rather unscientific survey to get a sense of what law professors are doing in this area.  If you are a law professor and you use popular culture in your class, I would be most grateful if you could answer this quick, anonymous survey I have put together:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QH3GBZK

Thanks in advance for your time and have a wonderful rest of summer!

Cynthia Bond
The John Marshall Law School
Chicago, Il

The survey only takes a few minutes, so, if you're a law professor, it won't take much time to support a colleague's research.

July 24, 2015 in C. Steven Bradford, Law School | Permalink | Comments (0)

Summer Reading: Excellent Sheep

For a university discussion group this summer, I read William Deresiewicz's book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life (2014).

Deresiewicz, a former Yale English professor, caused quite a stir in higher education circles with his Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League article in the New Republic (and other articles in various outlets), which promoted Excellent Sheep pre-publication.

Deresiewicz's attack on the ivy league can be summarized as follows:

  • Encourages a system that leads to resume-padding instead of authentic learning and service
  • Too much focus on future financial success and not enough focus on life's big questions
  • Not enough socioeconomic diversity
  • Faculty preoccupied with research and do not spend enough time on teaching/service
  • Risk-taking is not encouraged; error for margin for students is too small
  • Coursework not rigorous enough
  • Students are kept doing busy-work rather than allowed to explore
  • Encourages a system that can lead to depression, isolation, etc. 

Deresiewicz taught at Yale for 10 years and was supposedly denied tenure in 2008. When I found out that Deresiewicz's was denied tenure, I was tempted to write off his book as sour grapes, but I think it best to evaluate his claims on their own merit.

In my view, Deresiewicz doesn't bring much new to the conversation, and a number of his challenges to the ivy league could be brought against many colleges and universities. His proposed solution is for students to consider attending a small liberal arts college (where teaching is still a priority) or a state school (where there is much more true diversity). Deresiewicz, however, seems to underestimate the value of connections, brand, resources, and opportunities at ivy league schools. 

Deresiewicz also laments the dwindling interest in the liberal arts and the increasing focus on majors that are more directly profession-focused (like economics and finance). While Deresiewicz seems to realize the risk in turning down an ivy league education and also choosing a major like History or English, he does not seem to fully realize how some students simply cannot afford those risks. While return on investment should certainly not be the only focus in choosing a school and a major, it is rightfully important to many.

Personally, I don't think the entire 242-page book was worth the read. There simply was not much new, aside from a few glimpses behind the curtain at Yale. If I had it to do over again, I probably would have just stuck with Deresiewicz's article and the responses (e.g., here and here).

July 24, 2015 in Books, Business School, Haskell Murray, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Faculty Openings at Texas A & M

TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW seeks to expand its academic program and its strong commitment to scholarship by hiring multiple exceptional faculty candidates for tenure-track or tenured positions, with rank dependent on qualifications and experience.  Candidates must have a J.D. degree or its equivalent.  Preference will be given to those with demonstrated outstanding scholarly achievement and strong classroom teaching skills.  Successful candidates will be expected to teach and engage in research and service.  While the law school welcomes applications in all subject areas, it particularly invites applications from:

1)    Candidates who are interested in building synergies with Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, with an emphasis on scholars engaged in international business law who focus on cross-border transactions, trade, and economic law (finance, investments, dispute resolution, etc.);

2)    Candidates who are interested in building synergies with the broad mission of Texas A&M University’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, which include but are not limited to scholars engaged in agricultural law (including regulatory issues surrounding agriculture), rural law, community development law, food law, ecosystem sciences, and forensic evidence; and

3)    Visionary leaders in experiential education interested in guiding our existing Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic (with concentrations in both trademarks and patents), Entrepreneurship Law Clinic, Family Law and Benefits Clinic, Employment Mediation Clinic, Wills & Estates Clinic, Innocence Clinic, Externship Program, Equal Justice/Pro Bono Program, and Advocacy Program, with a particular emphasis on candidates who may have an interest in participating in our Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic or developing an Immigration Law Clinic.

Texas A&M University is a tier one research institution and American Association of Universities member.  The university consists of 16 colleges and schools that collectively rank among the top 20 higher education institutions nationwide in terms of research and development expenditures.  As part of its commitment to continue building on its tradition of excellence in scholarship, teaching, and public service, Texas A&M acquired the law school from Texas Wesleyan University in August of 2013.  Since that time, the law school has embarked on a program of investment that increased its entering class credentials and financial aid budgets, while shrinking the class size; hired eleven new faculty members, including nine prominent lateral hires; improved its physical facility; and substantially increased its career services, admissions, and student services staff. 

Texas A&M School of Law is located in the heart of downtown Fort Worth, one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the country.  The Fort Worth/Dallas area, with a total population in excess of six million people, offers a low cost of living, a strong economy, and access to world-class museums, restaurants, entertainment, and outdoor activities.

As an Equal Opportunity Employer, Texas A&M welcomes applications from a broad spectrum of qualified individuals who will enhance the rich diversity of the university’s academic community. Applicants should email a résumé and cover letter indicating research and teaching interests to Professor Timothy Mulvaney, Chair of the Faculty Appointments Committee, at appointments@law.tamu.edu.  Alternatively, résumés can be mailed to Professor Mulvaney at Texas A&M University School of Law, 1515 Commerce Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102-6509.

July 23, 2015 in Jobs, Law School, Marcia Narine, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Reading Recommendation: How Framing Shapes Our Conduct

Scott Killingsworth, a corporate attorney at Bryan Cave who specializes in compliance and technology matters and is a prolific writer (especially for one who still has billable hour constraints!) recently wrote a short and thought-provoking article: How Framing Shapes Our Conduct. The article focuses the link between framing business issues and our ethical choices and motivations noting the harm in thinking of hard choices as merely "business" decisions, viewing governing rules and regulations as a "game" or viewing business as "war."  Consider these poignant excerpts:

We know, for example, that merely framing an issue as a “business matter” can invoke narrow rules of decision that shove non-business considerations, including ethical concerns, out of the picture. Tragic examples of this 'strictly business' framing include Ford’s cost/benefit-driven decision to pay damages rather than recall explosion-prone Pintos, and the ill-fated launch of space shuttle Challenger after engineers’ safety objections were overruled with a simple 'We have to make a management decision.' (emphasis added)

Framing business as a game belittles the legitimacy of the rules, the gravity of the stakes, and the effect of violations on the lives of others. By minimizing these factors, the game metaphor takes the myopic “strictly business” framing a step further, into a domain of bendable rules, acceptable transgressions, and limited accountability. (emphasis added)

The war metaphor conditions our thinking in a way distinct from the game frame, but complementary to it. War is a matter of survival: the stakes are enormous, the mission urgent, and all’s fair. Exigent pressures grant us wide moral license, releasing us from adherence to everyday rules and justifying extreme tactics in pursuit of a higher goal; we must, after all, kill or be killed. If business is war, survival is at stake, and competitors, customers, suppliers, rivals or authorities are our enemies, then not only may we do whatever it takes to win, it’s our duty to do so. (emphasis added)

The full article is available here.

In light of the new ABA regulations on Learning Outcomes and Assessment, including the requirement that students have competency in exercising "proper professional and ethical responsibilities to clients and the legal system" this article seems like a great addition to a business organizations/corporations course line up.  I know that I will be including it in my corporate governance seminar this coming year.  And if I were responsible for new associate training, this would definitely merit inclusion in the materials.

-Anne Tucker

July 15, 2015 in Anne Tucker, Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Ethics, Law School | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Business Associations in Real Life

I’ve always been eager to do pro bono work. I went to law school with the intent of helping the indigent upon graduation, but then with a six-figure debt load, I went to BigLaw in New York and Miami, and then corporate America so that I could pay that debt off. But even as an associate and as in house counsel, I dutifully accepted pro bono cases. As a relatively new academic, I paid my way out of pro bono for the first couple of years as Florida allows and assuaged my guilt with the knowledge that my payments were going to fund the local legal aid office.

This year, as a condition of attending a family law CLE for free, I volunteered to take a case. I’ve devoted over 70 hours to it thus far, and we still aren’t finished even after today’s marathon 6.5 hour hearing dealing with a motion for contempt and enforcement, modification of alimony and child support, a QDRO (qualified domestic relations order), and a house in foreclosure. The case was complicated even according to my seasoned family law practitioner friends.

As a former litigator and current BA professor, I found that my skills helped to make up for my lack of family law expertise. The techniques for cross examining witnesses, preparing for hearing, and introducing exhibits came flooding back. From a BA perspective, knowing to ask questions about the structure of the petitioner’s LLC, inquiring about charging orders, and dissecting the financial statements and corporate tax returns put me in a much better position to protect my client’s interests. I always tell my students on the first day of BA that they never know where they will end up as practitioners, and that in today’s market many of them will be in small firms taking on a number of kind of clients. I try to make them understand how BA can help them in practice areas that don’t seem directly related to business. Now, thanks to this pro bono case I can back that up with proof from my own experience. 

July 10, 2015 in Business Associations, Family Business, Law School, Litigation, LLCs, Marcia Narine, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tips for Those Who Know Almost Nothing About Business (aka some of my incoming students)

It's barely July and I have received a surprising number of emails from my incoming business association students about how they can learn more about business before class starts. To provide some context, I have about 70 students registered and most will go on to work for small firms and/or government. BA is required at my school. Very few of my graduates will work for BigLaw, although I have some interning at the SEC. I always do a survey monkey before the semester starts, which gives me an idea of how many students are "terrified" of the idea of business or numbers and how many have any actual experience in the field so my tips are geared to my specific student base. I also focus my class on the kinds of issues that I believe they may face after graduation dealing with small businesses and entrepreneurs and not solely on the bar tested subjects. After I admonished the students to ignore my email and to relax at the beach during the summer, I sent the following tips:

If you know absolutely NOTHING about business or you want to learn a little more, try some of the following tips to get more comfortable with the language of business:

1) Watch CNBC, Bloomberg Business, or Fox Business. Some shows are better than others. Once we get into publicly traded companies, we will start watching clips from CNBC at the beginning of every class in the "BA in the News" section. You will start to see how the vocabulary we are learning is used in real life.

2) Read/skim the Wall Street Journal, NY Times Business Section or Daily Business Review. You can also read the business section of the Miami Herald but the others are better. If you plan to stay local, the DBR is key, especially the law and real estate sections.

3) Subscribe to the Investopedia word of the day- it's free. You can also download the free app.

4) Watch Shark Tank or The Profit (both are a little unrealistic but helpful for when we talk about profit & loss, cash flow statement etc). The show American Greed won't teach you a lot about what we will deal with in BA but if you're going to work for the SEC, DOJ or be a defense lawyer dealing with securities fraud you will see these kinds of cases.

5) Listen to the first or second season of The Start Up podcast available on ITunes.

6) Watch Silicon Valley on HBO- it provides a view of the world of  re venture capitalists and funding rounds for start ups.

7) Read anything by Michael Lewis related to business.

8) Watch anything on 60 Minutes or PBS' Frontline related to the financial crisis. We will not have a lot of time to cover the crisis but you need to know what led up to Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank.

9 Watch the Oscar-winning documentary "Inside Job," which  is available on Netflix.

10) Listen to Planet Money on NPR on the weekends.

11) Listen to Marketplace on NPR (it's on weekday evenings around 6 pm).

12) Read Inc, Entrepreneur, or Fast Company magazines. 

13) Follow certain companies that you care about (or hate) or government agencies on Twitter. Key agencies include the IRS, SEC, DOJ, FCC, FTC etc. If you have certain passions such as social enterprise try #socent; for corporate social responsibility try #csr, for human rights and business try #bizhumanrights. For entrepreneurs try #startups. 

14) Join LinkedIn and find groups related to companies or business areas that interest you and monitor the discussions so you can keep current. Do the same with blogs. 

As I have blogged before, I also send them selected YouTube videos and suggest CALI lessons throughout the year. Any other tips that I should suggest? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section or at mnarine@stu.edu.

July 2, 2015 in Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Film, Financial Markets, Law School, Marcia Narine, Technology | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Future of Respectability for Lawyers (Part 5)

In my final post on the subject of “respectability” of lawyers (the first four can be found here, here, here and here), I’d like to tie my thoughts together, discussing what the various parties can do to make Bird and Orozco’s thesis of assimilation of lawyers into corporate business teams the “new normal”.  This should give lawyers more career opportunities in the future, slow the loss of influence of the legal profession in businesses, and make legal education a more attractive choice.  Much of the discussion in academia has ignored the in-house counsel approach as being a viable option for the woes of the legal industry.  Below the fold, this post will discuss the roles that academia, in-house counsel, and business firms each may play in increasing the potential for success of a new model for business lawyers.

Continue reading

June 25, 2015 in Business School, Compensation, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, Jobs, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Freedom To Do Better Is Also An Obligation

So, I'm on vacation, which is not something I do very often, at least unrelated to work.  It's been great, and we're lucky to be able to do this (and to vacation as all). It's ungodly hot, but hey, that's the beach. I guess. Like I said, we don't do it like this very often.

Anyway, I recently read a piece that talked about freedom in way that really resonated for me.  It is applicable personally, and it is applicable professionally.  Law schools, collectively, could stand to pay attention, as well. We have choices, we just have to recognize it. I'm no philosopher, but here's the gist of the post that resonated with me, from Rapitude.com:

Sartre believed that we have much more freedom than we tend to acknowledge. We habitually deny it to protect ourselves from the horror of accepting full responsibility for our lives. In every instant, we are free to behave however we like, but we often act as though circumstances have reduced our options down to one or two ways to move forward. 

This is bad faith: when we convince ourselves that we’re less free than we really are, so that we don’t have to feel responsible for what we ultimately make of ourselves. It really seems like you must get up at 7:00 every Monday, because constraints such as your job, your family’s schedule, and your body’s needs leave no other possibility. But it’s not true — you can set your alarm for any time, and are free to explore what’s different about life when you do. You don’t have to do things the way you’ve always done them, and that is true in every moment you’re alive. Yet we feel like we’re on a pretty rigid track most of the time.

We often think of freedom as something that can only make life easier, but it can actually be overwhelming and even terrifying. Think about it: we can take, at any moment, any one of infinite roads into the future, and nothing less than the rest of our lives hinges on each choice. So it can be a huge relief to tell ourselves that we actually have fewer options available to us, or even no choice at all.

In other words, even though we want the best life possible, if life is going to be disappointing, we’d at least like that to be someone else’s fault.

As law faculty, we don't always know what to do to make major improvements, but it's on us to work to make that happen.  I think we do a lot of things right, but there's a lot (a lot!) we can do better. And that's our job -- to figure out how to be better. What to do is not an easy answer, but suggesting that we can't make changes is junk.  Again, the idea that we can't change, .... "is bad faith: when we convince ourselves that we’re less free than we really are, so that we don’t have to feel responsible for what we ultimately make of ourselves." 

June 23, 2015 in Joshua P. Fershee, Law School | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Exam Monitoring in the Digital Age

Exam time has come and gone and grades are filed. I have never had any trouble, as far as a I know, with cheating in my exams.  My expectation is that most problems arise from plagiarism in writing assignments.   There may be people trying to cheat on my exams, I suppose, but I am not sure it would prove helpful.   I change my exams and take steps to try to make the exam as fair possible, so that cheaters, should there be any, can't get much of an advantage.  

I was interested to see the report that China took proctoring to new heights this week, according to a news report in The Guardian, China deploys drones to stamp out cheating in college entrance exams:

Authorities in China are employing surveillance drones in an effort to stamp out cheating in college entrance exams.

But this year officials have unleashed a six-propeller drone, flown over two testing centres in Luoyang in Henan province on Sunday – the first day of the exam – to scan for signals being sent to devices which may have been smuggled in. No such signals were detected, local reports said.

I suppose it makes sense to add enforcement mechanisms, especially with the stake so high for the exams.  Drones sure make my walking of the aisles seems a little outdated. 

Apparently some employers are taking steps to combat cheating, too.  Potknox, a cloud-based online assessment tool, is used by some employers to screen applicants. According to the Potknox Blog, here, there are ways to combat cheaters. Among other things, the program can take random pictures of the test-taker (which can catch them on the phone) and random screenshots (checking Wikipedia).  

Law schools that use exam software can lock out the internet, which can help limit such things, though I wonder just how much smartphones have changed the game.  I have never caught anyone looking at a phone during an exam, but these days, one could get a basic definition of the business judgment rule or the Howey Test pretty quickly, I suppose. I'd be shocked if anyone could cheat their way to a high grade on my exams, but one who is struggling might find it useful to get by.

I'll have to give some thought about other ways to catch cheating. I have almost no interest in catching cheaters, because that's awful for everyone.  However, I have zero interest in sending people out into the legal profession who would do such a thing, so I'll keep looking. 

June 9, 2015 in Joshua P. Fershee, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Academic Importance of Non-Academic Skills

NPR recently posted a story titled, Nonacademic Skills Are Key To Success. But What Should We Call Them? The story, by Anya Kamenetz, is about labeling non-cognitive skills (or skill areas) that are important -- I would argue essential -- to success.  The listed areas are as follows: (1) character, (2) non-cognitive traits and habits, (3) social and emotional skills, (4) growth mindset, (5) 21st Century skills, (6) soft skills, and (7) grit.  

Ms. Kamenetz explains:

More and more people in education agree on the importance of learning stuff other than academics.

But no one agrees on what to call that "stuff".

There are least seven major overlapping terms in play. New ones are being coined all the time. This bagginess bugs me, as a member of the education media. It bugs researchers and policymakers too.

"Basically we're trying to explain student success educationally or in the labor market with skills not directly measured by standardized tests," says Martin West, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "The problem is, you go to meetings and everyone spends the first two hours complaining and arguing about semantics."

 

Whatever you call it, it matters.  

Beyond the semantics, it would be easy to debate the relative importance of these areas, and I am not sure I'd organize (or label) my own list in this way, but the concept behind the story is critically important to legal education.  As we in law schools strive to prepare practice-ready lawyers (at least, that's a primary focus of those with whom I have taught), I have often noticed that the skills students lack are often not information based.  Many times, it's that students have a hard time with deadlines, responsiveness, accountability, and thoroughness. 

Though it's less true today that it may have been ten, twenty, and thirty years ago, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that students might not have been taught how to draft a complaint, or file a motion, or create an LLC.  These are all things a lawyer should be able to do, of course, but I am finding that just showing students how to file a motion or form an LLC does not mean they are ready to actually do it.  That is, I am confident that some students I have taught how to form an LLC (and did well in my class) would not be ready to do that on their own. And I know some students who weren't in my class and have never seen an LLC statute who would be ready to figure it out. Why?  Life skills.  

Anyone who worked in a BigLaw job saw people who were clearly not cut out to do the job, even though the folks there come with a very serious pedigree. I sure saw people who couldn't (or wouldn't) do the work.  I worked with some truly brilliant and wonderful people, and I worked with some folks who had no idea (or at least no interest) in doing the work required.  For that matter, I also worked with some brilliant and wonderful partners, and just a couple smart partners who did good work but seemed committed to making people cry.  (That's for a different post). 

How, in addition to cognitive skills, do we teach deadlines, responsiveness, accountability, and thoroughness? I think it's through clinics and externship, as part of it, but it's also through committed efforts in courses throughout the curriculum.  We often teach first-year students about hard deadlines in their writing course, and we do it to some degree with rigid exam schedules, but that lacks the constant nature of deadlines (and moving parts) we see in practice. We can do it in other classes, with additional assignments, and I think it's worth trying. 

For my seminar courses, I have added small assignments and I don't remind people. They do it, or they don't. When students ask for an extension or change in their assignment date, I allow it if it fits my schedule and the class schedule. I'll decline or add a penalty if it causes others a problem. (They know this up front.)  It allows me to have conversations throughout the course about the importance of deadlines, and to talk more realistically about how things work in the real world.  I know I'm not solving everything, but I do think talking about these things candidly forces students to engage with these life skills in a way that might not otherwise.  

It's easy to think a lot of the life skills are things you have or you don't, but that's not true.  They just come to some people more easily. Others can be taught, if they want to be. For those who want to learn, I think it's our job to teach them.  And for those who don't want or care to learn these skills, if we offer the education, it's one less thing they can blame when they're shown the door or otherwise don't get what they want.  

[Author's note:  My colleague Steve Bradford's post "Practice-Ready" Law Graduates? is a worthwhile companion to this post.]

June 2, 2015 in Joshua P. Fershee, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, June 1, 2015

"Practice-Ready" Law Graduates?

I just read an interesting essay on the debate about creating “practice-ready” graduates: Robert J. Condlin, “Practice Ready Graduates”: A Millennialist Fantasy, 31 TOURO L. REV. 75 (2014), available on SSRN here.

Condlin rejects the notion of making law school graduates practice-ready. He argues that the practice-ready movement is a mistaken response to the downturn in the market for lawyers and that law schools cannot and should not make law students practice-ready. Regardless of your position on this issue, Condlin’s article is definitely worth reading.

June 1, 2015 in C. Steven Bradford, Law School | Permalink | Comments (8)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Future of Respectability for Lawyers (Part 2)

In my last post, I asked whether business leaders had unknowingly provided the legal industry with a long-term solution to declining interest in the legal profession (based on the drop in applications to law school) and potential waning influence.  I suggested that business leaders (inadvertently or otherwise) may be the driving force that ends up saving the legal profession.  I would like to take the discussion one step further.

There is no doubt in my mind that, historically, companies rarely did much legal training for the lawyers they hired.  They simply bought talent—usually by offering employment to attorneys with private practice experience that was valuable to the corporation.  Sometimes this worked extremely well, and sometimes it failed miserably.  Why? Business leaders sometimes possess only basic knowledge of what quality legal talent really looks like (after all, they usually are not lawyers themselves).  Moreover, they often have difficulty finding a lawyer who can operate in a corporate environment and have high-level legal skills.  The “a lawyer is a lawyer” mentality still prevails. 

Adding to the difficult situation is that private firm attorneys often view corporate attorneys as those who could not flourish in private practice (for whatever reason—lack of skill, drive, ability, focus, etc.), and they consequently may be perceived at times by their own companies as somewhat suspect (“If they were really good attorneys, wouldn’t they be practicing with a firm?”).  It becomes a Kobayashi Maru-type of character test for such in-house attorneys—virtually, a no-win situation.  They are hired to help, but at times not fully trusted to do so because they are on staff.  Professional respect, and compensation, for in-house attorneys lags behind that for lawyers in private firms.

Corporations are struggling with the concept of attorneys as part of entrepreneurial teams.  Few companies hire law students directly out of law school for the very same reasons that firms are currently limiting their new-hires—lack of return on their dollar.  Lawyers take 5-15 years to build the experience necessary to obtain the “gravitas” needed for a high level of trust, depending on the field.  Many lawyers never achieve this status; they are simply caught in an eddy of repeating activity.  (Perhaps this issue is worthy of a separate post!)

At this juncture, the in-house path remains precarious, and pursued at one’s peril.  At most companies, there is no specified legal track, unlike the well-worn management paths.  Many corporate legal positions are much lower paying than firm jobs, and often of the “J.D. preferred” type of position—helpful to be a lawyer, but not necessary.  Graduating law students usually do not choose this corporate path—it is chosen for them, as they graduate from lower tier law schools, have less than stellar grades, or perhaps due to personal obligations involving location or family.  Perhaps such students never had a great desire to be lawyers, drifting into professional school through lack of other opportunities.   Additionally, inside companies, non-lawyers often feel that their in-house attorneys are a form of threat, and sometimes attempt to undermine them.* Advanced education continues to be viewed, probably irrationally, with some suspicion in the business environment.  Perhaps because the lawyers presently in-house have offered little to benefit the business operations, or because they are just not well understood.

These attitudes appear to be changing.  As the legal environment continues evolve, students may actually enter law school for the specific purpose of being in-house counsel, perhaps even having a specific company or industry in mind prior to taking their first class.  Law schools are well advised to shift their focus to accommodate this new reality.  Law schools that play the game well will again become a dominant option for bright college students.  What does this future look like?  That will be the subject of my next post.  More soon!

 --Marcos Antonio Mendoza 

 

*Interestingly, I have never heard a single MBA joke (has anyone?), but frequently hear lawyer jokes.  However, many millennials report to me that lawyer jokes are no longer de rigueur around them—in other words, people feel sorry for them and the challenges they face!

May 19, 2015 in Corporations, Current Affairs, Law School | Permalink | Comments (10)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Scholarship & Advocacy Conflicts + Corporate Constitutional Rights

Thanks to faithful BLPB reader Scott Killingsworth for the tip about this new article appearing in the New Yorker detailing the scholarship and advocacy of renowned Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe.  The article raises questions about conflicts of interest between scholarship and advocacy.

[I]t would also be foolish to ignore the inherent tension in searching for truth while also working for paying clients. The scholar-warrior may lapse into a far more contemptible figure: the scholar for hire, who sells his name and his title for cash. A subtler danger comes from the well-known and nearly unavoidable tendency lawyers have of identifying with their clients. 

The article also highlights his role in the current debate on corporate constitutional rights.

Tribe has taken a strong view of individual rights; his view of corporate rights is similar, and in this capacity he has at times advanced constitutional arguments that might invalidate great parts of the administrative state, in a manner recalling the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence of the nineteen-twenties and thirties. In that sense, the current condemnation of Tribe can be seen as part of a larger progressive backlash against the use of the Bill of Rights to serve corporate interests.

This short article is absolutely worth making your Friday procrastination list or your weekend "catch-up" reading list.

-Anne Tucker

May 8, 2015 in Anne Tucker, Constitutional Law, Corporate Personality, Corporations, Ethics, Law School | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Is a national bar exam on the way?

I currently teach two classes that are on the bar exam—civil procedure and business associations. Many of my BA students are terrified of numbers and don’t know much about business and therefore likely would not take the course if it were not required. I know this because they admit that they take certain classes only because they are required or because they will be tested on the bar, and not because they genuinely have an interest in learning the subject. I went to Harvard for law school and although I had an outstanding education, I learned almost nothing that helped me for the NY, NJ, or FL bars (hopefully that has changed). I owe all of my bar passages to bar review courses so naturally (naively?), I think that almost any student can learn everything they need to know for the bar in a few short months assuming that they had some basic foundation in law school and have good study habits.

The pressure to ensure that my students pass the bar exam definitely informs the way I teach. Though there has only been one round of civil procedure testing on the multistate, this semester I found myself ensuring that I covered certain areas and glossed over others, even though I know having litigated for 20 years, that some subjects are more relevant in real life. Similarly, in BA, I had to make sure that I covered what will be on the Florida bar, while still ensuring that my students understand Delaware law and some basic finance and accounting, which isn't on the Florida bar, but which they need to know.

New York recently announced that it would join other states in adopting the uniform bar examination effective July 2016. The other states using the UBE include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. New York, as the largest adopter, hopes to inspire other states to do the same.

NY students would still have to take online courses and pass a 50-question test regarding specific NY laws, but the students would take the MBE, and MPT or multistate performance test. According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the two 90-minute MPT exercises are “designed to test an examinee’s ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation and complete a task that a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish. The MPT is not a test of substantive knowledge. Rather, it is designed to evaluate certain fundamental skills lawyers are expected to demonstrate regardless of the area of law in which the skills arise.” The NY graduates will also no longer have to write on 6 NY-based essays, but will instead write the multistate essay examination. Students will have to write on topics including: Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies), Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates (Decedents' Estates; Trusts and Future Interests), and Uniform Commercial Code (Secured Transactions).

In adopting the change, New York officials explained, a “significant advantage of adopting the UBE is that passage of the test would produce a portable score that could be used by the bar applicant to gain admission in other UBE states, assuming the applicant satisfies any other jurisdiction-specific requirements. This portability is crucial in a legal marketplace that is increasingly mobile and requires more and more attorneys to engage in multi-jurisdictional practice.”

I think this is sound reasoning. Many of today’s graduates do not know where they will end up, and I personally know that the thought of taking yet another bar exam was a reason that I decided to stay in Florida when I was in private practice. But the better reason to move to the UBE is the testing of the practical skills that lawyers say recent graduates lack. It won’t solve the problem of the lack of legal work, but it will make it easier for students who want to try to find work in other states. I doubt that Florida, which wants to make it as difficult as possible for snowbirds to set up practice here, will ever adopt the UBE but it should. Many oppose the adoption because schools may not have the faculty or resources to prepare students for the new test. But I welcome the change. Despite the pressure to prep my students for the bar, I have ensured that my students work on drafting client memos, discovery plans, markups of poorly written documents, and even emails to partners and clients so that they can be ready for the world that awaits them. If Florida joins the UBE bandwagon, they will be ready for the MPT too.

 

May 7, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporations, Current Affairs, Jobs, Law School, Marcia Narine, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Do Book Rentals Negatively Impact Learning?

Over the last few years, book stores and publishers have been evolving in how they offer books. Some textbooks are available electronically, and others are available for rent.  Although I always try to be thoughtful about how students learn throughout the year, I find that I am especially sensitive to such thoughts when it's time to grade exams and papers.  I obviously can't speak for all my fellow law professors, but I know a lot of us agree that we really like our students, and we want (and expect) them to succeed.  

The cost of books matters.  This article reports that students often spend $1200 a year on books and supplies, and further revealed:  

Of the students surveyed, 65% said they decided against buying a textbook because of the high cost, and 94% of those students said they were concerned that their decision would hurt their grade in that course. Nearly half of the students surveyed said the cost of textbooks affected which courses they took.

This was not a law-specific survey, and I think (and hope) most law students do buy (or rent) their books. I absolutely support trying to make books more affordable, but it cannot come at the expense of content.  I have taught some of my courses with all free materials, but that does not work for me in all cases.  

This year, my thoughts on the learning process have turned, in part, to textbook rentals. Some (and perhaps many) students have moved on to book rentals instead of purchases.  I am sympathetic to how much books cost, and I can understand why students would look for savings where they can.  I am, how, concerned that rented books could have a negative impact on learning because of limits (or perceived limits) on how a renter can treat the books.  

Barnes & Noble, for example, has the following book rental policy: 

Rules of Renting
Textbook rentals allow us to reuse and recycle books. We hope that you return your rental textbook to us in a condition for someone else to reuse later. If the textbook is returned with excessive highlighting or writing, missing pages, and/or damaged spines or covers, you will be charged for the replacement of the book. 

This seems reasonable enough, but I worry that the concern about limiting highlighting and writing in the book could serve to limit student engagement with the content.  There is other language that suggests that it's not just "excessive highlighting or writing" that could be a concern. Also from the B&N website:

Treat with Care 
Over the course of your studies be aware that other students will be renting the textbook after you, so please limit highlighting and writing in the book.

This is not merely advising against "excessive" notation -- it is also requesting "limit[ed]" highlighting and writing in the book.  I am someone who likes to write in the margins, for example, and connect thoughts or ideas with circles and lines in the text.  I am also not averse to highlighting important passages.  (As a side note, I get the point on truly excessive highlighting.  I bought one book that had so much highlighting it was easier to pick out what was not highlighted. Kind of annoying and amusing at the same time.  I was able to work with it, but I was more careful with future purchases.) 

As a first-year student, I wrote every term I didn't know (or suspected was a term of art) in the margins to look up in Black's Law Dictionary.  I sometimes even wrote the definition in the margin. This kind of connection with the material, I think, was an important part of my learning process. I realize not everyone learns this way, but for those of us who do, I fear that the textbook rental will limit that experience.

Obviously, one who knows they learn better by writing in books can just choose to buy, instead of rent. Unfortunately, at least some of us wouldn't know that's they way we learn until after we get started. I can't say that I would have known, anyway.  My (lax) undergraduate study habits were not in any way similar to my law school habits, and I was more than five years removed from school when I went back to law school.   

I don't have a great answer right now, and I have not been able to readily find any studies to support my concerns on book rentals (or allay my fears).  For students, I would say to think about how you learn and consider whether a book rental runs the risk of negatively impacting your education. For educators, I think we need to keep thinking about how students interact with the learning material, and we need to be aware of, and adjust to, the outside forces that may change the student learning process.  Comments on all of this are most certainly welcome.  

May 5, 2015 in Joshua P. Fershee, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Nat'l Bus. Law Scholars Conf. Line up & Extended Deadline

National Business Law Scholars Conference

Thursday & Friday, June 4-5, 2015 (Seton Hall University School of Law, Newark, NJ)

The organizers have put together a great line up of speakers and this conference is becoming (has already become) an intellectual highlight for the summer.  Keynote speakers include:  SEC Commissioner Troy Paredes, and Boston College Law  Professor Kent Greenfield.

In addition to the call for papers, which has been extended to May 8th (email Eric Chaffee), the conference will feature a Plenary Panel on the Extraterritorial Application of Federal Financial Markets Regulations with the following participants: 

Colleen Baker (view bio)
Lecturer, University of Illinois, College of Business

Sean Griffith (view bio)
T.J. Maloney Chair in Business Law; Director, Fordham Corporate Law Center

Eric Pan (view bio)
Associate Director, Office of International Affairs, U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission

Joshua White (view bio)
University of Georgia, Terry College of Business

For those of you unfamiliar with the NBLSC, here's a conference description from the organizers: 

This is the sixth annual meeting of the NBLSC, a conference which annually draws together legal scholars from across the United States and around the world. We welcome all scholarly submissions relating to business law. Presentations should focus on research appropriate for publication in academic journals, law reviews, and should make a contribution to the existing scholarly literature. We will attempt to provide the opportunity for everyone to actively participate. Junior scholars and those considering entering the legal academy are especially encouraged to participate. For additional information, please email Professor Eric C. Chaffee at eric.chaffee@utoledo.edu.

-Anne Tucker

 

 

 

 

PLENARY PANEL - THE EXTRATERRITORIAL APPLICATION OF FEDERAL FINANCIAL MARKETS REGULATIONS


Colleen Baker
 (view bio)
Lecturer, University of Illinois, College of Business

Sean Griffith (view bio)
T.J. Maloney Chair in Business Law; Director, Fordham Corporate Law Center

Eric Pan (view bio)
Associate Director, Office of International Affairs, U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission

Joshua White (view bio)
University of Georgia, Terry College of Business

CALL FOR PAPERS (EXTENDED UNTIL MAY 8, 2015)

To submit a presentation, email Professor Eric C. Chaffee at eric.chaffee@utoledo.edu with an abstract or paper by May 8, 2015. Please title the email “NBLSC Submission – {Name}”. If you would like to attend, but not present, email Professor Chaffee with an email entitled “NBLSC Attendance.” Please specify in your email whether you are willing to serve as a commentator or moderator.

CONFERENCE ORGANIZERS

Barbara Black (The University of Cincinnati College of Law, Retired)
Eric C. Chaffee (The University of Toledo College of Law)
Steven M. Davidoff Solomon (The University of California Berkeley Law School)
Kristin N. Johnson (Seton Hall University School of Law)
Elizabeth Pollman (Loyola Law School, Los Angeles)
Margaret V. Sachs (University of Georgia Law)

HOTEL INFORMATION


Hilton Penn Station
 | Online Reservations Availalbe Here
Located one block from Seton Hall Law School

  • Located adjacent to Newark Penn Station (Amtrak and New Jersey Transit Rail Lines)
  • Four miles from Newark Liberty International Airport – Complimentary shuttle service
  • $209 + tax per night
  • Reservations may be made online here or by calling 973-622-5000
  • Reference: SETON HALL UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW
  • Location: Gateway Center – Raymond Boulevard, Newark, New Jersey
  • Hilton Penn Station will release rooms on May 13, 2015.


Courtyard Marriott Newark Downtown

Located in downtown Newark (ten minute walk)

  • Located in the heart of downtown Newark adjacent to the Prudential Center and easily accessible to all major transportation
  • Four miles from Newark Liberty International Airport – Complimentary shuttle service
  • $139 + tax per night
  • Reservations may be made by calling: 973-848-0070
  • Reference: SETON HALL LAW SCHOOL
  • Location: 858 Broad Street, Newark, New Jersey
  • Courtyard Newark Downtown will release rooms on May 13, 2015.

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS AND INFORMATION

Visit and explore Seton Hall Law and its surrounding area.

May 1, 2015 in Anne Tucker, Call for Papers, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Advice for Law Review Editors

I recently finished my law review submission season, placing two articles: The Social Enterprise Law Market at Maryland Law Review (on jurisdictional competition and social enterprise entity forms) and An Early Report on Benefit Reports at West Virginia Law Review (on data collected last summer on statutory reporting compliance by benefit corporations).

Below, I share a few words of advice for my new law review editors and any law review editor readers. I share this advice acknowledging that I disregarded much of it when I was an editor on my school’s law review. Also, as mentioned below, I fully recognize and appreciate the work law review editors put into our articles.   

Consider Blind Review. I still haven’t heard a good argument against law reviews moving to blind review of articles. A very few, maybe two, of the top-ranked journals appear to have made the move, but the vast majority have not. 

Consider Peer Review. I understand, a bit better, the pushback against a traditional peer-review system, but consider involving your faculty in the process more heavily and consider obtaining outside faculty reviewers (as some of the elite journals are already doing). 

Consider Exclusive Submission Windows. A few journals are doing this, and it seems to be a smart move for many journals and authors. The editors have many fewer articles to review -- from authors who are serious about their journal -- and the authors get the assurance that their articles are receiving more attention in the review.

Respond. Typically, 40-50% of the journals I submit to never respond. Some of those journals are starting to get reputations for never responding. While we realize that law students have plenty on their plate, divide and conquer with your editorial team and try to respond (at least to the expedites). Even a form response, saying that the journal is full or expects a certain delay reviewing articles, is appreciated. 

Express Excitement. When extending an offer, show that you appreciated and are excited about the article. Both Maryland and West Virginia did this with my articles, and I chose them over some similarly ranked journals that sent boilerplate acceptance e-mails.

Call. Extending an offer to publish over the phone is often much more personal and effective than an e-mail offer.

Provide an Editing Schedule. Providing an editing schedule early in the process can be helpful.

Edit Lightly, if at All, on Style. I violated this rule repeatedly when I was an editor, but I now see that edits that appear to be style-based can often change the very precise message that the author is trying to communicate. If a sentence is unclear or poorly written, simply note this in a comment – perhaps with a suggested revision in the comment – rather than rewriting the sentence in the text.

Edit Heavily on Bluebook and Typos/Clear Errors. Editors typically know the Bluebook better than authors, so do not be afraid to edit heavily on Bluebook issues. Also, attempt to catch any typos or other clear errors. Some editors who claim to “respect the author’s voice” do too light of an editing job on Bluebook issues and clear errors. 

Not Every Sentence Needs a Footnote. Be reasonable on whether a sentence actually needs a citation or not.  

Provide Redlines. In the past, a few editors have not provided redlines, which makes it incredibly difficult to check what has been changed. Also, on occasion, editors have not provided complete redlines – They provide redlines, but I found changes that did not show up on the redline, which reduces confidence and slows the process.

Stick to the Editing Schedule. As much as possible, stick to the editing schedule. Authors need to honor the schedule as well. Of course there are emergencies and those are understandable, but editors might want to build in some additional time in the schedule for these unpredictable occurrences. 

Communicate. Much can be forgiven if editors communicate clearly, promptly, and respectfully with the authors. 

Twitter. Post-publication, Twitter can be a great tool to promote the journal’s articles. Many, but definitely not all, journals now have Twitter accounts.   

All of that said, I vividly remember the hard work and long hours of editing – on top of classes and interviews and internships and other responsibilities. We professors appreciate all that law review editors do, and we probably should express our thanks more often.

My co-bloggers and readers likely have additional thoughts – as many are more experienced than I. All are encouraged to share in the comments. 

April 24, 2015 in Haskell Murray, Law Reviews, Law School | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Continuing Job Search for 3Ls

There's good news and no news from me on the 3L job search front.

First, the good news.  One of the talented 3L business law students whom I have been mentoring in the Quest for Employment (Q4E) recently secured a position that is perfect for him.  He is a great fit for the firm and the position, and the firm is lucky to get him.  Yay for our team!

The rest of the news on the Q4E front is same-old, same-old.  Two other terrific 3L business law students who have had career/life changes that have led them to seek employment in new markets better suited to their professional or personal objectives are still on the market.  Of course, this is nothing new in Knoxville and much of the rest of the State of Tennessee, where many law firms cannot really assess their needs until much closer to the bar exam/hiring start date.  And these two promising lawyers-to-be are getting bites at the line.

Haskell earlier wrote a great post here on resumes and interviews, and I earlier wrote a companion post on cover letters.  But what happens after you've sent the cover letter and resume and have not been granted an interview?  Give up on the Q4E with those folks?  No way!  At least, that's not my advice . . . .

Continue reading

April 22, 2015 in Joan Heminway, Jobs, Law School | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Penn State Law Review Announces Spring Exclusive Submission Process

From the Faculty Lounge:

-------

This just in:

The Penn State Law Review is conducting an exclusive spring-cycle article review. Any article submitted to this exclusive review between now and April 19th will be evaluated by April 27th. If you have submitted an article to the Penn State Law Review previously, you must resubmit your article for consideration in the exclusive article review.

By submitting your article, you agree to accept an offer for publication, should one be extended. Any articles accepted will be published in Volume 120: Issue 1 or Issue 2 of this review—both of which are slated for publication in summer of 2015.

If you have an article that you would like to submit, please e-mail an attached copy of the article, along with your cv and cover letter, to esg5028@law.psu.edu . Please include “Exclusive Spring 2015 Article Review” in the subject line.

April 10, 2015 in Haskell Murray, Law Reviews, Law School | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Would the world be a better place if law students were shareholders?

It’s that time of year again where I have my business associations students pretend to be shareholders and draft proposals. I blogged about this topic last semester here. Most of this semester’s proposals related to environmental, social and governance factors. In the real world, a record 433 ESG proposals have been filed this year, and the breakdown as of mid-February was as follows according to As You Sow:

Environment/Climate Change- 27%

Political Activity- 26%

Human Rights/Labor-15%

Sustainability-12%

Diversity-9%

Animals-2%

Summaries of some of the student proposals are below (my apologies if my truncated descriptions make their proposals less clear): 

1) Netflix-follow the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the core standards of the International Labour Organization

2) Luxottica- separate Chair and CEO

3) DineEquity- issue quarterly reports on efforts to combat childhood obesity and the links to financial risks to the company

4) Starbucks- provide additional disclosure of risks related to declines in consumer spending and decreases in wages

5) Chipotle- issue executive compensation/pay disparity report

6) Citrix Systems-add board diversity

7) Dunkin Donuts- eliminate the use of Styrofoam cups

8) Campbell Soup- issue sustainability report

9) Shake Shack- issue sustainability report

10) Starbucks- separate Chair and CEO

11) Hyatt Hotels- institute a tobacco-free workplace

12) Burger King- eliminate GMO in food

13) McDonalds- provide more transparency on menu changes

14) Google-disclose more on political expenditures

15) WWE- institute funding cap

One proposal that generated some discussion in class today related to a consumer products company. As I skimmed the first two lines of the proposal to end animal testing last night, I realized that one of my friends was in-house counsel at the company. I immediately reached out to her telling her that my students noted that the company used to be ”cruelty-free,” but now tested on animals in China.  She responded that the Chinese government required animal testing on these products, and thus they were complying with applicable regulations. My students, however, believed that the company should, like their competitors, work with the Chinese government to change the law or should pull out of China.  Are my students naïve? Do companies actually have the kind of leverage to cause the Chinese government to change their laws? Or would companies fail their shareholders by pulling out of a market with a billion potential customers? This led to a robust debate, which unfortunately we could not finish.

I look forward to Tuesday’s class when we will continue these discussions and I will show them the sobering statistics of how often these proposals tend to fail. Hopefully we can also touch on the Third Circuit decision, which may be out on the Wal-Mart/Trinity Church shareholder proposal issue.These are certainly exciting times to be teaching about business associations and corporate governance.

April 9, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Financial Markets, Law School, Marcia Narine, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)