Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Schmoozing tips for summer associates
From the Careerist Column at lawjobs.com comes these tips for more successful schmoozing and self-promotion. The author is a legal career consultant and former partner at Winston & Strawn so she knows of what she speaks. Click here for the skinny.
Does the Quality of a Teacher’s Presentation Affect How Much Students Learn?
One study suggests that the answer is no. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Logic would suggest that lecturing to students in a clear, fluid style while making frequent eye contact would engage students and aid in their learning. At the very least, many people would assume, that technique would be more effective than hunching over a podium, reading from notes, and barely pausing to look up.
But that may not always be the case, according to a study published last month in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
Students who watched a lecture delivered in the clear and fluid style, which is described in a report on the study as "fluent," were about twice as likely as those who watched the haltingly delivered, "disfluent" one to believe that they would remember the material they had just learned.
But both groups actually remembered about the same amount, with the students who had watched the disfluent lecture more accurately predicting how well they recalled the material.
Of course, this is just one study, but it does give pause.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Less wining and dining, more practical legal training for this year's summer associates
Several San Francisco area law firms interviewed for this story from The Recorder via Law.com explain that the emphasis in this year's summer associate programs is on practical training rather than leisurely lunches and nights on the town. The shift in emphasis is because firms need their summer hires to become productive more quickly than ever before due to financial pressure from clients. Nor are this year's crop of summer associates complaining about the scaled back social calendar; they're just happy to have jobs.
Gone are the days of cruises and caviar. These days, law firms' summer associate programs are more like boot camp for lawyers-in-waiting.
At least that's what's in store for law students arriving at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, where the summer kicks off with an exercise that chief talent officer Robert Williams calls "basic training." For two weeks, the firm's summer associates face off in teams of two to try a case from start to finish, from gathering evidence to preparing closing statements. The activity culminates with a trial before a jury of six Sheppard Mullin employees and a real-life judge.
It's a far cry from the classic Big Law summer of memos followed by cocktail hour, Williams notes.
"We're way beyond that," he said. Even in the dog days of summer, neither firms nor the students that began arriving at the end of May have time for those rituals. With clients enjoying greater bargaining power after the recession, firms need to staff matters with associates armed with real skills. Law students can't ignore the market dynamics either. An informal Recorder survey of 11 firms conducted last fall found that this summer's San Francisco Bay Area classes are 40 percent smaller than they were in 2007. The students who land the coveted spots report to the office in top form, said Stephen Venuto, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe's firmwide head of on-campus attorney recruiting.
"Their focus in previous years was on having a great time and making sure the firm was a good place to work," said Venuto, a Silicon Valley-based corporate partner. "Now they're focused on understanding what it's like to be a good lawyer so they can be one sooner."
Firms have responded to that call by stepping up the training they deliver. For the past few years, Fenwick & West has called upon its professional development staff to deliver a wider range of programming to summer associates. In addition to delving into the practice of law with clinics on depositions and negotiations, Fenwick also tries to impart the softer skills that associates need to navigate the firm, said Julieta Stubrin, Fenwick's director of attorney recruiting and diversity. One writing course centers on internal communications.
"They learn how to write a brief email that will get the partner's attention right away," Stubrin said.
Continue reading here.
Legal Writing as a Way to Train "Practice Ready" Lawyers
In producing “practice ready lawyers” law schools sometimes overlook the importance of legal writing skills. In her recent op-ed piece in the National Law Journal, Sherri Lee Keene (U. Maryland Law School) persuasively argues that legal writing is an active learning activity that law schools should emphasize. Here is a brief excerpt:
Engaging in legal writing has many learning benefits. The act of writing affords the writer an opportunity to think through a legal problem, engage deeply with the law and facts, and expand her knowledge of the law and practice. By analyzing legal problems and developing her ideas through the writing process, a student better understands the substantive law and procedure relevant to an assignment. In discussions with the professor on writing assignments and from feedback received, a student learns to make professional decisions and gains confidence about the prospect of practicing law. Work on writing assignments offers a student an opportunity to apply her knowledge of the law in a practical context, with the benefit of expert guidance.
The D-Day Letter that Eisenhower Never Sent
On the eve of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, General Eisenhower recognized that victory was far from certain. He wrote a letter that he would send if the invasion failed. It stated:
Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.
My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
Here is the letter in Ike’s hand writing. (Note: He got the date wrong).
There’s a lesson here about leadership. When your efforts fail, you don’t blame others. You take responsibility. Here is an article making this point from the Lebanon (PA) Daily News.
Here is Ike’s message to the troops prior to the invasion.
Thnx to Sen. Toomey (PA)
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Creating Professional Identity
David Trickett discusses the formation of professional identity in law students in a video here.
"In this video, Trickett discusses the formation of professional identity in law students and the capacity to better serve clients. Trickett goes on to contemplate the most effective ways in which we can help instill a professional identity in law students, through mentoring, a focus on service, and an institutional trajectory by schools that seeks to engage students in fundamental considerations of what it means to be a legal professional."
Tips for improving your interpersonal skills
In these times of a very tough job market for new law grads, the so-called "soft skills" of interpersonal relations are at least as important as traditional legal skills. In this column from the blog attorney@work, Loyola-Chicago Adjunct Professor of legal skills Desiree Moore provides a summary of the key interpersonal skills law students and recent grads should hone for success on the job:
- Be reasonable and even-tempered at all times. Do not display extreme emotions, and do not take frustrations out on anyone (this includes your administrative assistant—the best way to get in trouble as a new lawyer is to treat staff in a disrespectful manner).
- Be enthusiastic. Express enthusiasm at the prospect of working on any project assigned to you.
- Get to know your colleagues. Ask them about their work and their interests.
- Be humble. You are at the bottom of the food chain. Your likability, and not your credentials (even if impressive), is going to carry the day.
- Steer clear of office gossip or any office dynamics with which you are not comfortable. Use discretion, and keep your personal drama out of the workplace.
- Do not take things personally. You are there to do a job. Period. Do not view minor exchanges or critiques of your work as personal affronts. Criticism in particular is expected, and you should use it to improve your skills.
- Demonstrate that you are a reliable person. Act responsibly and responsively. Always do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it; even if you have promised to do something that is ultimately insignificant, you will build credibility by consistently doing exactly what you say you are going to do. Be on time; better yet, be early—for everything. Do your work quickly, efficiently, and with purpose. Where appropriate, keep your supervising attorney apprised of your progress.
- Work hard. Early in your career, demonstrate that you are willing to put in long hours and late nights. Volunteer to take over or help out on projects and cases wherever you might be needed. Figure out how to get work done quickly, efficiently, and well. Create strategies for limiting distractions throughout the day. Where necessary to get work done, turn your email alerts off and make conversations with people in the office short. In other words, show that you mean business most of the time.
Continue reading here.
Are Young Lawyers Less Willing to Negotiate Agreements?
According to one of my lawyer friends, older lawyers are complaining that younger lawyers are less willing to work at negotiating their way out of cases and conflicts. They hold fast to demands and don’t want to give an inch.
Given the plethora of law school courses on mediation, negotiation, and the like, one would think that younger lawyers would be more willing to find solutions to conflicts. I speculate that with the tight job market, the recalcitrant lawyer fears cutting a deal, going back to the firm, getting criticized for giving away too much, and placing his or her job in jeopardy.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
When Should You Take Your Husband’s Name?
First, disclosure: My wife and I have different last names. So I sometimes get called “Mr. Brennan.” I don’t correct the speaker. Big deal. On the other hand, the phone book lists my last name, not hers. Consequently, her clients have a harder time tracking her down after hours.
At The Careerist, Vivia Chen lists reasons for and against a name change:
1. When you've been indicted or convicted. You need a clean start to launch your career and life, so hook that unsuspecting sucker and take his name as fast as you can!
2. When your maiden name is a spelling nightmare. Let's face it: Names like "Jones" or "Baker" are better for your brand in the corporate world than "Konekhamsompnou" or "Oubonlamphanh."
3. When your maiden name has an unfortunate connotation. Can it be easy to ascend the social or career ladder with a last name like Coffin, Rat, Falik, Smut, or Turd? Don't think so.
4. When your maiden name is notorious. I don't care how much family pride you have, I'd ditch any name associated with major dictators, serial killers, terrorists or assassins.
5. When you despise your father. Actually, quite a number of people told me they have daddy issues, and would happily erase any paternal connection, if given the chance.
But even if you don't suffer from any of the above, there are still compelling reasons to take your husband's name. No, no—not because of those tired middle-class reasons—like how wonderful it is to wave the family flag or how proud you are to bear the last name of the love of your life. Puh-leeze. Let's try to be a bit more imaginative.
The top two reasons to change your last name in my book are:
- When you marry royalty. I don't blame Kate Middleton one bit for dropping her last name to take on the the title of "Duchess of Cambridge." Hey, I'd do it in a flash.
- When your husband's name will get you a table at a popular restaurant. Maybe this is just a New York thing, but I suspect that a name like Rockefeller, Forbes, Trump, or Lauder will get the maître d's attention real fast and put you on top of that wait list.
Knowledge automation software is a disruptive technology that may replace lawyers
In a New York Times Op-Ed, Paul Krugman discusses a new report by the business consulting firm McKinsey & Company that describes several disruptive technologies and the likely impact they will have on the labor market. One such technology is described generically as "automation of knowledge work."
The McKinsey report describes this technology as sophisticated artificial intelligence software and "machine learning" which will be able to perform many "knowledge worker" tasks that had previously been considered "impossible or impractical" to do by machine. This new fangled software will be able to answer "unstructured" questions from clients and customers (i.e. those posed in the language of ordinary conversation rather than precisely formulated queries) which opens up the possibility of "sweeping change" in the way such knowledge work gets done. The report further posits that sophisticated analytical software might be used to augment the work of highly skilled workers (law partners, for example) meaning that some of the lower skilled workers who had previously provided support work (i.e. associates) would see their jobs disappear in favor of automation.
Clearly, this kind of thing has already been happening in the legal field for some time as predicative coding software has replaced armies of document review software at some large firms (and providing more sophisticated analytical data than its human counterpart in the process). It's also the kind of thing Richard Susskind has been predicting for years would happen since, in his opinion, some of the day-to-day work done by lawyers is not that sophisticated and thus is easily amenable to automation.
Returning to Mr. Krugman's Op-Ed, he thinks that if the above predictions turn out to be correct, the middle class is kind of screwed. The solution? We're going to need a good government-funded safety net to provide for all the displaced "knowledge workers." Yikes.
Friday, June 14, 2013
New scholarship on motivating law students to learn.
In a new article by Professor Cassandra Hill (Thurgood Marshall), she argues that in the discussion of effective classroom teaching, what often gets lost in the shuffle is that students must take responsibility for their own learning. Professor Hill discusses strategies for motivating students and assessing their commitment to coursework in the context of measuring learning outcomes. The article is titled The Elephant in the Law School Assessment Room: The Role of Student Responsibility and Motivating Our Students to Learn and can be found at 56 How. L.J. 447 (2013) and here on SSRN.
From the abstract:
The American Bar Association’s proposed new accreditation standards call for law schools to assess the effectiveness of their academic programs. Law schools are now doing so, quickly giving rise to an assessment movement that closely examines desired educational outcomes and professors’ efforts to attain them. But assessment has to date focused on the professor, who is just one part of the professor-student partnership. All but ignored are the contributions and motivation of the other critical component — the student.
This Article posits that to assess academic programs’ effectiveness, assessment must evaluate the contributions of students and not just professors. With such data, professors could target students’ progress and motivation strategically, making strides in both teaching and learning.
Part I of this Article sets out the responsibility for learning shared between professor and student and examines existing research in the field of student responsibility for learning. Part II explains the profound benefits of assessing student responsibility, and Part III presents methods for measuring student perspectives and participation. Part IV identifies practical strategies for igniting students’ motivation and commitment to learning.
Assessment aims to prepare students for legal practice. But unless law professors consider the level of responsibility students take for their own education, any assessment results will lack proper context. By assessing students’ contributions too, professors can take the necessary steps to enhance their students’ academic and professional competence.
Attorney Blogger Violates Ethics Rules
From Litigation News (ABA Section on Litigation):
A divided Virginia Supreme Court upheld the imposition of discipline against an attorney for authoring an Internet blog discussing the results of his client’s case without a disclaimer that case outcomes were not guaranteed. The majority ruled that a partial economic motivation for writing the blog was sufficient to categorize it as commercial speech subject to regulation rather than protected political speech under the First Amendment.
In Hunter v. Virginia State Bar [PDF], a criminal defense lawyer authored and maintained a blog on his firm’s website that mainly discussed concluded cases in which he obtained favorable results. All published information was part of the public record. Other blog posts consisted of the attorney’s critique of the criminal justice system. The blog did not provide any disclaimer that the cases mentioned did not guarantee or predict outcomes in future cases.
The full article is worth reading. It suggests to me that the Virginia court has not kept abreast of electronic communication or the realities of law practice.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Tips for overcoming procrastination
Following up on Scott's post below, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog has a nice summary of the article by David Rasch and Meehan Rasch on combating procrastination for law students and lawyers (profs too). Their tips include:
Face your fears: “Lawyers stereotypically turn to logic for comfort, but if you increase your capacity to accept, feel, tolerate, and understand the emotional side of your nature, you will increase your capacity to write productively.” That means articulating your dread or denial into sentences like, “If I don’t write this memo, I’ll fail the class and flunk out of law school.”
You’re not so bad: While confronting those feelings, don’t be so down on yourself, the authors advise. “Debilitating thoughts that plague legal writers….are generally exaggerations and distortions of the truth that have gained too much power from their endless internal repetition.”
Change of scenery: “Negative feelings about a work space may also trigger avoidance,” say the authors, who share the tale of a “big-firm lawyer” gripped by anxiety after she was tasked with “several massive drafting projects by a difficult supervisor.” Her writing picked up after she left town and worked remotely from ”a pleasant cafe near the beach where she had done much of her writing during law school.”
Alcohol isn’t the answer: “Though some very well-known and prominent lawyers and writers have had serious addictions and mental health disorders, legal writers should not view a manic episode, excessive drug use, or alcohol as the path to improved productivity.”
Oprah’s Harvard Commencement Address
On May 31, Oprah addressed Harvard’s graduating class. Here is an excerpt:
It doesn’t matter how far you might rise — at some point, you are bound to stumble. Because if you’re constantly doing what we do — raising the bar — if you’re constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages predicts that you will, at some point, fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure — failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.
Now, when you’re down there in the hole, it looks like failure. . . . And when you’re down in the hole, when that moment comes, it’s really okay to feel bad for a little while — give yourself time to mourn what you think you may have lost — but, then, here’s the key: Learn from every mistake. Because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes are there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are.
And then, figure out what is the next right move. The key to life is to develop an internal moral, emotional GPS that can tell you which way to go.
For more excerpts, please click here at Brain Pickings.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Two Helpful Articles from Meehan and David Rasch
Meehan and David Rasch have posted two helpful articles on SSRN:
DU Law announces new experiential legal practice curriculum
From DU's press release:
This fall the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will launch its new Experiential Advantage Curriculum, which will allow students to spend a full year of their law school career in real or simulated practice settings. By the time they graduate, students will have a year's worth of legal practice experience.
“Denver Law is committed to creating practice-ready law school graduates,” says Denver Law Dean Martin Katz. “This is a major milestone in achieving that goal.”
The Sturm College of Law has long been recognized as a pioneer in experiential learning, opening the nation’s first law school clinic in 1904. The school was cited in 2012 by U.S. News & World Report Magazine as one of three law schools demonstrating “best practices” in the field.
The new Experiential Advantage Curriculum combines live client clinics, high - quality externships -- including a new Semester in Practice Externship--and legal simulation courses. Among the simulation courses are the Carnegie Integrated Courses, also new, which provide training in doctrine, written and oral skills, and emphasize the development of professional identity.
Students who opt into the program will take 24 credit hours of experiential learning courses in their second and third years in addition to their 6 credit first-year Lawyering Process course. The result is that at least a third of their three-year law school career will consist of experiential learning opportunities.
“Experiential courses put our students in the shoes of practicing lawyers in real and simulated legal matters,” says Professor Roberto Corrada, the Mulligan Chair of Modern Learning at Denver Law. “Getting to do this for a full year during law school, guided by expert professors and mentors, provides unparalleled opportunities for our students to develop as lawyers.”
“Employers have told us repeatedly that they are looking for graduates with real or simulated practice experience, and the skills and perspective that come from such experience,” says Dean Katz. “We believe that the Experiential Advantage Curriculum will provide our graduates with a significant advantage in the job market.”
The Experiential Advantage Curriculum will be available to all Denver Law students arriving in the fall of 2013 or later. While the program is optional, all Denver Law students are required to take at least one experiential learning course during their second or third year.
The program marks the fulfillment of one of the most important goals in Denver Law’s strategic plan, notes Dean Katz. The plan called for the school to build sufficient curricular capacity to offer students an all-experiential year as part of its Modern Learning Initiative.
Denver Law also is looking into the possibility of creating an Experiential Advantage™certificate, which would formally distinguish graduates who undertook a year of experiential learning while still in law school.
Denver Law is an active participant in “Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers” (ETL), an initiative of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. ETL is edicated to facilitating and supporting experiential learning in law schools to create excellent, practice-ready lawyers. A total of 28 law schools with a shared focus on experiential learning are members of ETL’s consortium.
Hat tip to National Jurist Magazine.
In Memoriam: John F. Sutton
I have neglected to note the passing of one of my great law professors, John Sutton. In addition to making major contributions to the development of legal ethics, he was an excellent mentor and an exemplary man. He cared about his students. Long ago, I marveled at his teaching and still haven’t been able to live up to the standard he set. Here is an excerpt from the ABA Journal’s obituary. It contains links to full obituaries. A life well lived.
John F. Sutton, a one-time dean at the University of Texas Austin School of Law, FBI special agent and drafter of the ABA's Model Code of Professional Conduct, has died at age 95.
Sutton died Friday of complications due to old age, his family told the Austin American-Statesman.
Born in Alpine, Texas, in 1918, Sutton spent time as a cattle rancher before attending the University of Texas in 1936. He earned his law degree in 1941.
Sutton served with the FBI as a special agent at the start of WWII, then served in the U.S. Army Reserves as a 1st Lt. in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps during the Korean War. He was in private practice from 1950-1957 in San Angelo, a practice he maintained with his wife Nancy Ewing, who was his law school classmate, and his father, retired Judge J. F. Sutton, according to his obituary in the San Angelo Standard-Times.
Sutton joined the law school faculty at his alma mater in 1957 and taught for 46 years until his retirement at age 85 in 2003. Sutton went on to become dean of the law school in 1979 and served as dean until 1984.
From 1965-1970, Sutton was one of the original draftsman of the ABA's Model Code of Professional Responsibility, which replaced the ABA's 1908 Canons of Ethics. Later, Sutton consulted on the drafting of the association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
California considers proposal to mandate skills training for admission to the bar
[Note - this post was updated on 6/13 to reflect the Task Force's June 11, 2013 "Phase 1 Final Report"]. A task force created by the California Bar to examine possible reforms to admission requirements has filed its "final" report recommending that a mandatory "pre-admission skills program" be adopted by the California Supreme Court. If adopted, it would require law schools to provide 15 units of course work in practical skills training spread over three years (as an alternative, candidates for admission to the California Bar would have to participate in an approved externship or comparable program). Obviously, this is big news for both California law schools as well as everyone else in legal ed. since as goes California, so goes the nation (at least sometimes).
• Pre-admission: A competency skills training requirement fulfilled prior to admission to practice. There would be two routes for fulfillment of this pre-admission competency skills training requirement: (a) at any time in law school, a candidate for admission must have taken at least 15 units of course work that is designed to develop law practice competencies, and (b) in lieu of some or all of the 15 units of course work, a candidate for admission may opt to participate in a Bar-approved externship, clerkship or apprenticeship at any time during or following completion of law school;
• Pre-admission or post-admission: An additional competency skills training requirement, fulfilled either at the pre-or post-admission stage, where 50 hours of legal services is specifically devoted to pro bono or modest means clients. Credit towards those hours would be available for “in-the-field” experience under the supervision and guidance of a licensed practitioner or a judicial officer; and,
• Post-admission: 10 additional hours of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (“MCLE”) courses for new lawyers, over and above the required MCLE hours for all active members of the Bar, specifically focused on law practice competency skills training. Alternatively, credit towards these hours would be available for participation in mentoring programs.
With respect to when and where within the curriculum California law schools will have to provide mandatory skills training, here's what the task force said:
Why 15 units and when must those units be taken while in law school? We make no pretense to having drawn upon a rigorous formula for measuring what should count as substantial. We simply took as a rule of thumb that, in a traditional law school model, where all or most of the first year is devoted to doctrinal courses, 25% of the final two years of school would be devoted to experiential learning in clinics, externships, and skills courses. But the timing of when these units must be earned is secondary. In many law schools, where competency skills training is included in the traditional first year doctrinal courses offerings, the 15 units might spread over all three years. Because we do not wish to restrict the manner in which schools may offer courses that will meet the objectives we have in mind, the 15 units of pre-admission competency skills coursework may be earned by students at any point while in law school.
You can continue to read the task force's full report here.
A big hat tip and thank you to Professor Robert Kuehn.
Ethics: Lawyer Must Know Tech
From the monthly newsletter of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania:
As this ABA Journal article notes, changes to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct make it clear that a lawyer has a duty to learn and take account of advances in technology. A new addition to the comments to Model Rule 1.1, regarding competence, states that a lawyer’s duty of competence requires him or her to keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, “including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” A new provision of Rule Model 1.6 regarding confidentiality states that a lawyer must make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, client information. A new comment to the rule states in part:
Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s efforts include, but are not limited to, the sensitivity of the information, the likelihood of disclosure if additional safeguards are not employed, the cost of employing additional safeguards, the difficulty of implementing the safeguards, and the extent to which the safeguards adversely affect the lawyer’s ability to represent clients (e.g., by making a device or important piece of software excessively difficult to use).
Changes in the Model Rules only become mandatory when adopted by the Supreme Court of the state, but these changes certainly reflect changes in the nature of legal practice all practicing attorney will have to accommodate.
In other tech news, the ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued a formal opinion addressing the use of electronic social media by judges and other judicial officers. The opinion concludes that the use of such media does not inherently conflict with a judge’s responsibilities, but discusses a number of issues and precautions of which a judicial officer should take account.
A Newsletter for Transactional Lawyers
From Gonzaga Law School:
- The Transactional Lawyer
The Transactional Lawyer is a bi-monthly, electronic newsletter published by the Commercial Law Center. The newsletter offers advice to lawyers on how to structure and document commercial transactions and alerts transactional attorneys to recent legal developments that may affect their practice.
The newsletter is free and is intended for wide distribution. Readers are welcome to copy and distribute the newsletter, either in print or in its electronic format.
For the present issue and the archive of past issues, please click here.