Thursday, March 5, 2015

Two Law Schools Will Not Require the LSAT

According to BloombergBusiness, the University of Iowa Law School and the SUNY Buffalo Law School will admit students based on their grade point averages and other standardized tests:

 [Buffalo Dean James Gardner] acknowledges, however, that the change might be a lifeline to law schools, which have lately been suffering from a persistent lack of bodies. “It does address that problem to the extent that they remove what is, for some students, an obstacle for applying to law school,” says Gardner. In 2014, first-year enrollment at U.S. law schools fell to about 38,000, its lowest point in four decades, down 28 percent since it peaked in 2010. First-year enrollments have declined by around 20 percent since 2011 at both SUNY Buffalo and the University of Iowa.

The two schools are the first to announce that they've taken advantage of a recent ruling by the American Bar Association, which accredits U.S. law schools. In August, the ABA changed its rules to allow law schools to fill up to 10 percent of their class with students who have not taken the LSAT, as long as they were at the top of their college class and scored highly on the  SAT and ACT, college aptitude tests, or on the GRE or GMAT graduate school exams.

You can read more here.

This is risky business.

(ljs)

March 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Are Oral Contracts Enforceable? Lady Gaga

Of course the answer is yes (subject to the Statute of Frauds), but how often do they deal with millions of dollars?

When the plaintiff brought Stefani Germanotta (Lady G) to the defendant producer, they agreed orally to a sharing of future profits. When the performer became a massive hit, the defendant failed to abide by the disagreement. In the ensuing legal action, the jury found for the plaintiff—in the neighborhood of at least $7.3 Million.

You can read more here and here.

Good example to emphasize that sometimes your word is your bond.

(ljs)

March 4, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Qatar to launch U.S.-style 3 year JD program with help from Harvard and Northwestern

This will be the first U.S.-style law school in the middle east.  This "cutting edge" JD program will open in Fall, 2015.  The National Law Journal has coverage here (subscr. req.).  The following is Northwestern's press release:

Hamad Bin Khalifa University Launches New Law School in Strategic Partnership with Northwestern Law

Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU), aided by its strategic partner, Northwestern University School of Law, is establishing a new graduate-level law school in Doha, Qatar

The HBKU Law School will offer a three-year Juris Doctor degree program with a comprehensive curriculum that will equip its graduates to take important leadership positions in the public and private sector throughout the region. The school will open in the fall of 2015 in Education City, a 2,500-acre campus located on the western edge of Doha.

The new program is the first of its kind in the Middle East.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Hamad bin Khalifa University on this important initiative and appreciate the leadership of the Qatar Foundation in their ongoing development of Education City,” said Daniel B. Rodriguez, dean of Northwestern University School of Law. “We share their belief in the power of higher education to make a positive difference in the world.”

Professor Clinton W. Francis will serve as the interim dean and, with assistance from the Northwestern Law faculty, will help guide the development of the school’s curriculum, hiring staff and faculty, and serving as an advisor to HBKU officials. Francis teaches and researches in the areas of Corporate Restructuring/Bankruptcy, Commercial Law, Intellectual Property, and Intellectual Capital Management. He is a recognized expert in context-based teaching, using role-playing and entrepreneurial simulations.

“We are developing a leading-edge curriculum, instruction and scholarship, with the goal of delivering the maximum knowledge and value to students and to domestic, regional, and global partners,” Francis said. “We will achieve this value commitment through a unique pedagogical approach emphasizing the structural linkage of students, faculty, employers and the larger community to build sustainable intellectual, legal and business best practices to support growth throughout the region.”

. . . .

Continue reading the press release here.

(jbl).

March 4, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sweetbriar College to Close its Doors

Unexpectedly, Sweet Briar College has decided that its time has come. According to its leaders:

Sweet Briar officials cited overarching challenges that the college has been unable to handle: the lack of interest from female high school students in attending a women's college like Sweet Briar, declining interest in liberal arts colleges generally and declining interest in attending colleges in rural areas. Sweet Briar is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. "We are 30 minutes from a Starbucks," said James F. Jones Jr., president of the college.

You can read more here at Inside Higher Ed.

Of course any disruption like this leads us to think about the fragile state of many law schools. Sweebriar did not wait until the bitter end. It made a decision when it still had an endowment and could make plans for its students, faculty, and staff. When struggling law schools see the writing on the wall, will they follow Sweetbriar’s example?

(ljs)

March 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does Plain English Make a Difference to Clients?

According to an empirical study by Christopher Trudeau, the answer is yes. I think his 2012 article deserves greater attention--The Public Speaks: An Empirical Study of Legal Communication, 14 The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing 121 (2012) (here).

In a carefully designed study, subjects compared passages written in plain English and similar passages that contained the failures that plain English attempts to eliminate. The study provides a good bit of valuable information. It also results in 10 practical pointers

First, do not underestimate the importance of oral communication.

Over half of all respondents preferred some type of oral

communication to written communication.

Second, deliver written documents electronically even when you

must send a hard copy. . . .

Third, use clear, understandable written communication. . . .

Fourth, do not assume that all readers will understand commonly

used legal terms. Instead, define these terms if you must use

them. . . . .

Fifth, avoid complicated terms and Latin words. They generally

bothered or annoyed nearly seven out of ten clients. . . . .

Sixth, prefer the active voice. Respondents preferred it almost

70% of the time — and clients at a higher rate than nonclients. . . .

Seventh, avoid multiword prepositions like pursuant to and prior

to and with regard to. They are among the worst aspects of legalese.

Eighth, remember that the more confusing the sentences become,

the more likely that a reader will prefer plain language. . . . .

Ninth — and this needs to be proclaimed repeatedly, ceaselessly

— the vast majority of clients and nonclients prefer plain language.

For the choice-of-language questions, readers chose the

plain-language version 80% of the time.

Finally, use plain language no matter what the reader’s educational

level. Contrary to my original theory, as the level increased,

so did the respondent’s preference for plain language.

(ljs)

March 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Washington & Lee Makes Economic Changes

The Lexington law school has announced a number of operational changes designed to remedy budget concerns. From JDJournal, here is a list:

First-year classes featuring 100 students will be enrolled at the school starting with the 2015-2016 school year, which will create a full-time student body of 300 or more students. Tuition will increase two percent each year. The Board of Trustees approved an increase in payout from the endowment income of the law school to 7.5 percent through 2017-2018. This adds $3 million to the budget of the law school in 2015-2016. The Law School Annual Fund, which provides operating funds, has increased to $1.5 million for the current school year. The student-faculty ratio of 9:1 will stay the same, but faculty compensation will drop by 20 percent due to attrition over the next four years. Some senior faculty salaries will see a one-time salary reduction of two percent. To read more law school news stories, click here. Over the next five years, six administrative and staff jobs will be reduced. The library budget will increase by 2 percent, but all other operating budgets will drop by 10 percent in 2015-2016. The law school expects its budget to return to balance by the 2018-2019 school year, despite deficits showing for 2014-2015 through 2017-2018.

I wish the school well, but I think more radical steps are needed for this school and law schools in general. Since these changes were announced, W&L's dean has announced that she is stepping down. Brant Hellwig, a tax professor at the school, will assume the deanship.

(ljs)

March 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Reframing the Socratic Method

I believe that the Socratic method can remain an important tool in law school teaching as long as it is used properly and is only one of several approaches to teaching.  Jamie R. Abrams has written a paper on this subject called Reframing the Socratic Method.

Abstract: While innovations in law teaching are everywhere, these innovations are being constructed upon and limited by the ancient architecture of the case-based Socratic method, which still endures and persists throughout first-year and upper-level courses. This article highlights how the Socratic method limits the depth and breadth of innovations in law teaching and can be reframed to better catalyze other teaching innovations, create more practice-ready lawyers, and cultivate more inclusive and inviting law classrooms. Within the existing framework of law teaching – the same casebooks, class sizes, and teaching style – the case-based Socratic method can be reframed in three straight-forward ways to better align with curricular innovations in legal education and to create a more holistic student experience. These adaptations are (1) consistently positioning client(s) at the center of the Socratic dialogue; (2) consistently positioning law students as attorneys considering legal research and weight of authority as a springboard to client counseling and outcomes; and (3) consistently sensitizing students to varied lawyering skills such as client counseling, settlement, drafting, and discovery within the Socratic case-based approach.

(Scott Fruehwald)

March 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What six words to avoid in your legal writing?

Ross Guberman, the author of Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation's Top Advocates, has an excellent blog where he provides really handy advice for sprucing up your legal writing.  He's also written several articles that are especially helpful for new associates looking for advice on how to write better.  Ross's most recent column addresses the six words (and phrases) you should purge from your writing and why (he's got another post on six more you should also banish). Below is the cheat-sheet version but go here to get the full explanation with lots of examples:

Just Say No

Try

with respect to, with regard to, regarding, concerning, in regard to

on, about, for, as for, as to

moreover, additionally, furthermore, further

also, and

even assuming arguendo, assuming arguendo, arguendo, even assuming

even if

is not required to

need not

demonstrates, exemplifies

shows, proves

pursuant to

under

(jbl).

March 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Yale Law Alters Grading Policies

From the Yale Daily News:

Unlike many law schools around the country, the law school has a tertiary grading system in the second and third years in which professors assign students one of three grades: honors, pass or low pass. The first year employs credit/fail grading. In a school-wide email sent last week, Yale Law School Dean Robert Post wrote to students that the school’s Grading Review Committee had approved two proposals to revise the grading system.

The first proposal changed the description of honors that will appear on students’ transcripts to reflect that the grade represents “superior mastery” as opposed to work “significantly superior to the average level of performance.” Secondly, the committee agreed to do away with “student-awarded credits” that law school students earned through participation in student activities and journals. Instead, a faculty member will be able to award credit for such activities upon evaluation.

You can read the rest here.

I don’t think the changes amount to much. Apparently almost everyone gets an H or P in a course. The distinction between the two definitions of “honors” seems too subtle to send a different message to employers. As for “student awarded credits,” my law school had to make a similar change in order to conform to ABA rules on what counted for academic credit. I can’t remember the details.

(ljs)

March 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Case Against Electing Judges

Here is a long YouTube of John Oliver on the subject. About three minutes in, he runs a number of clips of political commercials—amusing, but sad. Living in a state with elected judges, I am distressed by this method, and with good reason.

(ljs)

March 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dean of George Washington U. Law School tells Chronicle of Higher Ed "never been a better time to consider getting a legal education"

This video interview between CHE's Beckie Supiano and GW Dean (and president of AALS) Blake Morant.  It is part of a series of video interviews that CHE is conducting with leaders throughout higher ed.  You can see the video interview here and read the transcript as well.  Below is a brief excerpt.

BECKIE SUPIANO: I'm here with Blake Morant, the dean of the George Washington University Law School and the president of the Association of American Law Schools. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us this morning.

 

BLAKE MORANT: Thank you so much, Beckie. I'm very, very pleased to be here with you.

 

BECKIE SUPIANO: So it's not the easiest time to be running a law school these days. Demand from prospective students has really tapered off. The job market for new law graduates isn't the strongest it's ever been. How are you facing these challenges at George Washington?

 

BLAKE MORANT: I really believe there's never been a better time to really consider getting a legal education. And just as you said before, there are many different challenges that the law school faces. I would indeed say that these challenges are pretty much standard among many institutions in higher education—the demand for services, the expense that goes into investing in an education. Those individuals who are actually considering a career, trying to think about what's going to give them the best value for their money.

 

I have always said that a law degree is a degree that gives to you for a lifetime. There are many different individuals doing a variety of different things who've gone to law school. Some are traditional lawyers. Some of them are in business. Some of them are in government. All of them will tell you that the skills that they received from their legal education have really benefited them in their careers. And their career paths, which now is more of a journey than a destination.

 

So I'm excited about being a part of this—as I consider to be continuing evolution in American legal education.

 

. . . .

 (jbl).

February 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What’s Wrong with Law Reviews

In 1936, Yale Professor wrote his well-known diatribe against law reviews (here). His argument:

 There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content. That, I think, about covers the ground. And though it is in the law reviews that the most highly regarded legal literature—and I by no means except those fancy rationalizations of legal action called judicial opinions—is regularly embalmed, it is in the law reviews that a pennyworth of content is most frequently concealed beneath a pound of so-called style.

In a recent issue of the Virginia Law Review, Judge and former law professor Harry Edwards builds on Rodell’s argument:

The most important point that Professor Rodell made is that, too often, law reviews and the articles they contain are irrelevant to law’s purpose of serving society. Intensely theoretical, philosophical, and empirical scholarship, which is very much in vogue in the legal academy these days, is rarely of interest or use to wide audiences. It is too abstract. Indeed, it does not even purport to address concrete issues relating to legal practice, procedure, doctrine, legislation, regulation, or enforcement. Yet, many young legal scholars report that they are under pressure to write articles of this sort, and law reviews readily accept their offerings for publication. There is certainly value in some philosophical, theoretical, and empirical scholarship, but it should not be preferred over other forms of scholarship. In order for law reviews to be relevant outside the legal academy, they should balance abstract articles with scholarly works that are of interest and use to lawyers, legislators, judges, and regulators who serve society through legal arguments, decision making, regulatory initiatives, and enforcement actions.

As a regular author of law review articles, I have to agree. You can read all of Judge Edwards’ article here. I also have written critically about law reviews, for example, here and here.

(ljs)

February 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Successful Appellate Briefs

The results of an empirical study correlating success in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with the length of appellate briefs and the experience of the lawyers writing the briefs found a correlation with longer briefs and experienced lawyers:

Does greater experience in federal appellate work by a lawyer make that lawyer’s client more likely to prevail on appeal? The short answer from our study of civil appeals appears to be “yes,” at least for one side of the adversarial divide (appellees). Based on this intriguing finding and prior work by other scholars, the evidence grows that attorney experience matters in general and attorney experience in appellate work matters in particular. 

Does setting out to write the most succinct brief pave the way to appellate success? The short answer from our study, for appellants in civil appeals where both sides are represented by counsel, appears to be “no.”

The authors warn that longer briefs is not the key to success:

 But that cannot mean that fattening an appellate brief with more words is a promising strategy for appellate victory. The results are better understood as indicating that an appellant must do a thorough briefing job and not truncate necessary points for brevity’s sake alone. Rather than bolstering a foolish entreaty for wordiness, the results indicate that the appellate advocate needs to be given some breathing room to make the tailored argument, calibrating the necessary length of the brief to the underlying complexity of the case.

Gregor C. Sisk & Michael Heise, “Too Many Notes'? An Empirical Study of Advocacy in Federal Appeals.

It makes sense that more experienced lawyers are more successful. As for the length of briefs, I would like to know if the longer briefs correlate with more complex issues and if more complex issues correlate with a better chance of success at the appellate level. I doubt that the shorter briefs result from the writers being overly concerned with wordiness.

(ljs)

February 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

In Memoriam: Monroe Freedman

I am sad to report that Hofstra law professor and former dean Monroe Freedman died yesterday.  Monroe was one of the leaders in the legal ethics field; in fact, I think you could call him a giant in that area.  He was also a treasured colleague.  He was a friend to all of us who worked at Hofstra, and a mentor to the younger professors.  He will be missed.

(Scott Fruehwald)   

February 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Teaching Students to Be Problem-Solvers and Dispute-Resolvers"

This is a new article posted to SSRN, here, by Professors Andrea Schneider (Marquette), Jill Cross (Pace) and John Lande (Missouri).  From the abstract:

No matter what area of law students might end up practicing, dispute resolution and practical problem solving (“ADR” and PPS) will play a central role. Litigators resolve far more cases through voluntary processes than through trial. Transactional lawyers negotiate the terms of a deal. Government lawyers often are called to resolve interagency disputes and claims against the government. Defense attorneys and prosecutors routinely negotiate plea arrangements. In-house counsel work both internally and externally to resolve conflicts on behalf of their company. 

Reports on what lawyers should know, including the MacCrate Report and Educating Lawyers, regularly list problem-solving, negotiation, and dispute resolution as skills that lawyers should have. Best Practices for LegalEducation called for law schools to educate students in problem-solving and in practical wisdom, in order to solve clients’ problems effectively and responsibly. 

Law schools can, and many do, educate future lawyers in the knowledge, skills, and values inherent in the problem-solving approach in two ways. The first is to develop a specific and distinct Alternative Dispute Resolution curriculum. It is a best practice for every law school to make such courses available to every law student. The second is to incorporate the problem-solving orientation and skills throughout the curriculum. This is an emerging best practice. Both are addressed.

(jbl).

February 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Vacation and Leave Policies of Top Law Firms

From Law Crossing, here is a detailed report. Some firms have surprisingly generous policies. I wonder how comfortable junior employees feel about taking full advantage of the policies.

(ljs)

February 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Information on Writing Competitions

George Washington University’s law school has up-to-date information on virtually every legal writing competition (here). I understand that often, a competition receives few or no entries. Thus students have a realistic opportunity of winning some money and a new line on the resume.

(ljs)

February 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

NALP chief is cautiously optimistic about improving job market for new law grads

The Executive Director for the National Association of Law Placement ("NALP"), James Leipold, states in an article for the National Law Journal that the job market for new law grads has been steadily, if modestly, improving for the past three years and he expects that trend to continue in light of reduced competition for new jobs due to falling law school admissions and a generally improving economy.  A brief excerpt is below but you can read his full prediction and opinions here.

Ground for Measured Optimism on Job Prospects

Increased hiring and reduced law school enrollment could spell happy futures for graduates.

 

Despite the endless publicity about the poor job market for law school graduates since the recession, the entry-level legal job market has actually been improving for the past three years. The improvements have been incremental, and it is still a scrappy and competitive job market for new law school graduates, but falling law school enrollment and a strengthening economy are likely to support continuing improvements for the next few graduating classes.

. . . .

 

In some ways, the oversupply problem has begun to solve itself. According to the American Bar Association, the class of 2017, which is the class that started as first-years this past fall, was made up of just 37,924 students, almost exactly the number of jobs found by the class of 2013.

 

It would be naive to say this alone will take care of the jobs problem for law graduates, but in some ways it will. Certainly, an improving economy and a shrinking graduating class are going to help.


. . . .

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

February 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

First Year Lawyers: 30 Tips in 30 Minutes

From the ABA Career Center. You can access the text here (powerpoint style). You also can access the 30 minute webinar here—free if you are an ABA member. Membership is free to law students.

(ljs)

February 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Have Colleges Lost Interest in MOOCS?

The MOOC Hype Fades, in 3 Charts by Steve Kolowich.

"Few people would now be willing to argue that massive open online courses are the future of higher education. The percentage of institutions offering a MOOC seems to be leveling off, at around 14 percent, while suspicions persist that MOOCs will not generate money or reduce costs for universities—and are not, in fact, sustainable."

"Back then (2012), 28 percent of respondents believed MOOCs were sustainable, while 26 percent thought they were not. In this year’s survey, 16 percent believe MOOCs are sustainable, while 51 percent think they are not."

(Scott Fruehwald) (hat tip: David Thomson)

February 23, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)